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Title: Nineteen Centuries of Drink in England
       A History

Author: Richard Valpy French

Release Date: October 26, 2014 [EBook #47206]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Chris Curnow and the Online Distributed
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D.C.L., LL.D., F.S.A.



All rights reserved[Pg iv]

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The earlier part of this slight contribution to the literature of an inexhaustible subject has already appeared in a series of numbers in a London weekly journal. The best acknowledgment of the writer is due to the Rev. Arthur Richard Shillito, M.A. (late Scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge), who has from time to time during the progress of this work most kindly furnished him with valuable notes.


A Contribution to the Bibliography of Drinkxi
Chapter I. Roman Period.1
Chapter II. Saxon Period.10
Chapter III. Saxon Period—continued.26
Chapter IV. Danish Period.44
Chapter V. Norman Period.55
Chapter VI. Plantagenet Period.—Henry II. to the Death of Richard I.66
Chapter VII. Plantagenet Period (continued).—John, to the Death of Edward II.80
Chapter VIII. Plantagenet Period (continued).—Edward III. to Richard III.95
Chapter IX. Tudor Period.126
Chapter X. Stuart Period.170
Chapter XI. Hanoverian Period.271

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The object of this work is to ascertain the part which Drink has played in the individual and national life of the English people. To this end, an inquiry is instituted into the beverages which have been in use, the customs in connection with their use, the drinking vessels in vogue, the various efforts made to control or prohibit the use, sale, manufacture, or importation of strong drink, whether proceeding from Church, or State, or both: the connection of the drink traffic with the revenue, together with incidental notices of banquets, feasts, the pledging of healths, and other relevant matter.

It must interest every thoughtful being to know how our national life and national customs have come to be what they are. They have not sprung up in a night like a mushroom. They have been forming for ages. Each day has contributed something. The great river of social life, ever flowing onward to the ocean of eternity, has been constantly fed by the tributaries of necessity, appetite, fashion, fancy, vanity, caprice, and imitation. Man is a bundle of habits and customs.

With some, it is true, life is mere routine, a round of conventionalities; literally ‘one day telleth another;’[Pg viii] with others, each day is a reality, has its fresh plan, is a rational item in the account of life. To these nothing is without its meaning; there is a definiteness, a precision, about its hours of action, of thought, of diversion, of ministering to the bodily claims of sustenance by eating and drinking. Around the latter, social life has fearfully encircled itself. The world was, and still is,—

‘On hospitable thoughts intent.’

The latter days are but a repetition of the former. ‘As it was ... so shall it be also. They did eat, they drank.’

Social life is intimately connected with the social or festive board; in short, with eating and drinking, because these are a necessity of nature. Other customs and habits may be fleeting, but men must eat, men must drink. Food ministers not only to the principle of life, but to that of brain force also. Thought is stimulated, activity is excited, man becomes communicable. He then seeks society and enjoys it. Thus has social intercourse gathered round the social board. Eating and drinking are two indispensable factors in dealing with the history of a nation’s social life. Adopting the adage by way of accommodation, ‘In vino veritas,’ truth is out when wine is in, once know the entire history of a nation’s drinking, and you have important materials for gauging that nation’s social life.

For obvious reasons, a division has been adopted of the subject into periods, in some respects artificial so far as the present inquiry is concerned. The Romano-British[Pg ix] period has been selected as the terminus a quo. It might have been speculatively interesting to penetrate further into the arcana of the past, to have inquired who were the earliest inhabitants of this country? Were they aborigines, natives of the soil, or were they colonists? Had they an independent tribal existence, or were they originally a part of that great Asiatic family who emigrated into and peopled Western Europe, and to whom the Romans gave the name of Gauls?

Had such an inquiry been relevant, the question would have been of immense importance; for drawing, as one must, considerably upon imagination in dealing with any period not strictly historic, one must either regard the primitive inhabitants as independent aborigines, and accommodate their supplies to their wants, or, regarding them as an offshoot from another nation, suppose them to have carried with them the customs of their parent tribe, and find the sought-for habits of the child in the ascertained habits of the parent.

But we are concerned with fact; and must therefore date from a period when facts, however meagre and involved, are forthcoming.

A chapter of Bibliography is appended for the benefit of any who might wish to prosecute a study, of which the present effort is a mere outline.

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[Pg xi]


Author.Title of Work.Date.
Accum, F.Adulterations of Food1820
Ackroyd, W.History and Science of Drunkenness1883
Adair, R. G.The Question of the Times1869
Agg-Gardner, J. T.Compulsory Temperance (Fortnightly)1884
Alcock, Rev. T.Observations on ... a late Act of Parliament1756
Alford, S. S.On Drink-Craving1875
Ames, R.Bacchanalian Sessions1693
Anderson, A.Trade and Commerce1762
Anstie, Dr. F. E.Stimulants and Narcotics1864
On the Uses of Wines1877
Armstrong, Dr. J.The Art of Preserving Health1744
Arnold, R. A.English Drunkenness1877
Ashton, J.Old Times1885
Assheton, Dr. W.A Discourse against Drunkenness1692
Arthur, T. S.Ten Nights in a Bar-Room1871
Aspin, J.A Picture of the Manners, &c.1825
Atkinson, F. P.A Cause of Alcoholism1879
Austin, MajorCup Draining. (Bristol Magazine)1857
Bacon, G. W.Alcohol at the Bar1878
Baker, W. R.The Curse of Britain1840
Intemperance the Idolatry of Great Britain1851
Barnaby, A.Proposals for laying a Duty on Malt1696
Barber, M. A. S.Bartholomew Faire1641
Barclay, Dr. J.Ale, Wine, Spirits1861
Barrow, J. H.Temperance and Teetotalism1845
Barry, Sir E.Observations on the Wines of the Ancients1775
Basil, S.Homilia Contra Ebrios
Bayly, Mrs.Ragged Homes1860[Pg xii]
Baynes, C. R.Two Discourses on Sickness of Wine1669
Beale, J.A Treatise of Cyder1665
Beardsall, F.Nature and Properties of Wines1839
Beaumont, Dr. T.A Lecture on Ardent Spirits1830
Beddoes, Dr. T.A Guide for Self-Preservation1793
Beecher, Dr. LymanSermons on Intemperance1826
Beggs, T.Dear Bread and Wasted Grain1856
Bell, Dr. J.Action of Spirituous Liquors1791
Bennet, Dr. D. W.Alcohol: Use and Abuse1883
Bernard, S.De Ordine Vitæ
Bickerdyke, J.Curiosities of Ale and Beer
Bradley, R.The Riches of the Hop Garden1729
Brewster, J.The Evils of Drunkenness1832
Bridgett, T. E.The Discipline of Drink1876
Brown, Dr. A.Advice respecting Water Drinking1707
Browne, Sir T.Pseudodoxia Epidemica1646
Browne, Dr. PeterDiscourse of Drinking Healths1716
Of Drinking in Remembrance of the Dead1715
Bruce, E.Digest of Evidence before the Committee of Parliament1835
Brunton, Dr. L.The Influence of Stimulants1883
Burgh, J.A Warning to Dram Drinkers1751
Burn, J. H.Descriptive Catalogue of London Traders1855
Burne, PeterThe Teetotallers Companion1847
Burns, Dr. D.Drink, Drunkenness and the Drink Traffic1862
The Bible and Total Abstinence1869
The Bases of Temperance Reform1872
Christendom and the Drink Curse1875
Buckingham, J. S.Evidence on Drunkenness1834
Earnest Plea for the Reign of Temperance1851
History and Progress of the Temperance Reformation1854
Bucknill, J. C.Habitual Drunkenness1878
Bury, E.The Deadly Danger of Drunkenness1671
Butler, W. R.The Idolatry of Britain
The Curse of Britain1838
Buxton, C.How to stop Drunkenness (North British Review)1855
Caine, W.Thoughts on Wines and Temperance1882
CapilOn the Laws of Drunkenness
Carlysle, Dr. A.Pernicious Effects of Liquors1810
Moral Influence of Fermented Liquors1837
Carpenter, Dr. W. B.Use and Abuse of Alcoholic Liquors1851
The Moderate Use, &c.1853[Pg xiii]
Carpenter, Dr. W. B.Physiology of Temperance1853
Carpenter, Dr. A.Alcoholic Drinks not Necessaries1882
Chadwick, Sir E.Various Reports, Speeches, &c., dating from1842
Chadwick, Dr. J.An Essay on Alcoholic Liquors1849
Charleton, Dr.Mystery of Vintners1692
Child, S.Every Man his own Brewer1797
Christison, Sir R.A Treatise on Poisons1829
The Habit of Intemperance1861
Clark, Sir AndrewAlcohol in Small Doses1881
An Enemy of the Race1882
Clarke, S.The British Gauger1762
Close, DeanWhy I have taken the Pledge1860
Collier, J. P.Collection of Ordinances1790
Collinson, J.Crack Club1858
The Gaol Cradle1875
Confalonarius, J. B.De Vini Naturâ1535
Conybeare, W. J.Social Essays1855
Cornwalleys, H.The Law of Drinking1705
Cornaro, L.De Vitæ Sobriæ Commodis1678
Coryn, H. A. W.Moral and Physical Advantages of Total Abstinence1888
Couling, S.The Traffic in Intoxicating Drinks1855
History of the Temperance Movement1862
Teetotalism v. Alcohol1863
Crane, J. T.The Arts of Intoxication1877
Crespi, Dr. A.Various Essays and Lectures, dating from1870
Cruikshank, G.The Bottle1847
A Sequel to The Bottle1848
The Glass1853
Daniel, Geo.Merrie England in ye Olden Time1842
Democritus in London1852
Darby, C.Bacchanalia1680
DeaconThe Innkeeper’s Album1823
Dearden, J.Short Account of Drunkenness1840
Decker, Th.The Gull’s Horne-booke1609
English Villaines Prest to Death1632
Defoe, Dan.The Poor Man’s Plea1698
De LaunePresent State of London1681
Denham, Sir J.Calf’s Head Club1713
Dewhurst, W. H.Physiology of Drunkenness1838
Dickson, Dr.Fallacies of the Faculty1839
Digby, Sir K.Closet Opened1677
Disney, John.View of Ancient Laws against Immorality1710
Doran, Dr.Table Traits1854
Dossie, R.On Spirituous Liquors1770[Pg xiv]
Downham, JohnDisswasion from Drunkenness1613
Druik, Dr. L.Cheap Wines1865
Duncan, Dr.Wholesome Advice1706
Dunckley, H.The Shame and the Glory of Britain1849
Dunlop, J.National Intemperance1828
The Wine System of Great Britain1831
Philosophy of Drinking Usages1839
Earle, JohnMicrocosmographie1628
Edgar, JohnDrinks of the Hebrews1837
Edmunds, Dr. J.Non-Alcoholic Treatment1876
Alcoholic Drinks as Diet1879
Edwards, EdwinCollection of Old English Inns1873
Edwards, HenryCharities and Old English Customs1842
Ellis, MrsA Voice from the Vintage1843
Pictures of Private Life1844
Ellison, CanonThe Church Temperance Movement1878
Esquiroz, AlphonzeThe English at Home
Evelyn, JohnTyrannus; Sumptuary Laws1661
Fairholt, F. W.Lord Mayor’s Pageants1843
Farrar, ArchdeaconNumerous Lectures, Articles, &c.
Fleetwood, BishopChronicon Preciosum1707
Flower, R.Observations on Beer1802
Forbes, Sir J.Temperance: An Enquiry1847
Forster, Dr. T.Physiological Reflections1812
Fosbroke, T. D.British Monachism1817
Fredericus, J.De Ritu Bibendi
Freeman, G.Exhortation from Drunkenness1663
French, R. V.History of Toasting1881
Personal Advantages of Abstinence1878
Frinus, D.Spirits and Wine Offending Man’s Body1668
FriscolinusIn Ebrietat
Gairdner, Dr. W. E.On Alcoholic Stimulants1861
Gale, Rev. H.Apostolic Temperance1856
Garbult, R.A Sober Testimony1675
Gascoigne, G.The Pryncelye Pleasure at Kenilworth1576
The Steele Glas, a Satyre1576
Gay, JohnPoem on Wine1727
Gayton, EdmundArt of Longevity1659
Geree, JohnPotion for the Cure of Unnatural Health-Drinking1648
Gesner, C.Contra Luxum Conviviorum
Gibson, E.Earnest Dissuasive1750
Gilmore, A.Our Drinks1856
Gladstone, Rev. G.Good Templarism1873
Godschall, W. M.Monitions concerning Ale-house Keepers1787[Pg xv]
Goodwin, M.An Address to the Nobility on Distillation1819
Googe, B.Noageorgus1570
Gough, J. B.Autobiography of1879
Gratarolus, W.De Vini Naturâ1565
Greenfield, W. S.Alcohol, its Use and Abuse1878
Greenwood, J.The Seven Curses of London
Greenwood, E.Lectures on Intemperance1837
Grier, R. M.Numerous Pamphlets, Articles, &c.1870-89
Grindrod, R. B.Bacchus1839
Grose, F.Worn out Characters of the Last Age
Gunning, H.Reminiscences of Cambridge from 1780
Gustafson, AxelThe Foundation of Death1884
Gutch, J.Collectanea Curiosa1781
Guthrie, Dr. T.A Plea for Drunkards
Guy, Dr.Intemperance (Weekly Record)1857
Hales, S.The Unwholesomeness of Liquors1750
Hall, ThomasFunebria Floræ1660
Hall, J.Drink Thirst: Its Treatment1880
Harris, R.The Drunkard’s Cup1635
Harris, Dr. SylvanusInebriety1872
Harwood, Dr. E.Of Temperance and Intemperance1774
Haynes, M.Against Drunkenness1701
Heath, BenjaminThe Case of the County of Devon
Henderson, Dr. A.History of Ancient and Modern Wines1824
Henry, Rev. W.Earnest Addresses against Drinking, &c.1761
Heslop, T. P.The Abuse of Alcohol1872
Our Drinking Customs1878
Heywood, ThomasLondon Harbour of Health1635
The Marriage Triumph1613
Philocothonista; or, The Drunkard Opened1635
London Speculum1637
Higginbottom, J.On the Treatment of Disease without Stimulants (Brit. Med. Journ., Vol. II.)1862
Hill, J.Friendly Warnings v. Drunkenness1831
Hingeston, H.Dreadful Alarm1703
HobsonHousehold Expenses of Sir John Howard1466
Hodgkin, Dr.Promoting Health1835
Hone, W.Everyday Book. Year Book1825
Hopkins, W. B.H. Sc. Temperance1871
Hornby, W.The Scourge of Drunkenness1614
Horsely, J.Toxicologist’s Guide1866
Horsely, J. W.Numerous Articles, Lectures, &c.1875-89
HospinianusDe Festis Christianorum1593[Pg xvi]
Hoyle, W.Intemperance and Crime1864
Total Abstinence1874
Our National Drink Bill1884, &c.
Howard, C.The Touchstone of Adulteration
Hudson, ThomasNumerous Articles, Lectures, &c.1849-89
Hughes, W.Complete Vineyard1665
HusenbethGuide to the Wine-cellar
HussAlcoholismus Chronicus1851
Ingestre, ViscountMeliora; or, Better Times1852
Ancient Laws and Customs of the Burghs
Inwards, J.Essays on Temperance1849
Jeaffreson, J. C.A Book about the Table1875
Jeffreys, ArchibaldThe Religious Objections1840
Alcoholic Wines1845
Jenkins, E.The Devil’s Chain1876
Jerrold, D.Cakes and Ale1852
Johnson, J.Laws and Canons1720
Jole, W.Warning to Drunkards1680
Jones, A.The Dreadful Character of a Drunkard1660
Junius, R.The Drunkard’s Character1638
Kempe, A. J.Losely MSS. Illustrative of English Manners1835
Kennet, BishopParochial Antiquities1695
Kerr, Dr. N.The Action of Alcoholic Liquors1876
Intemperance and its Remedy1878
Diseases from Alcohol1882
The Truth about Alcohol1884
Numerous Articles and Lectures
KesterDe immoderatâ Adbibendi consuetudine
Kirton, J. W.Intoxicating Drinks1879
Knight, T.Pomona Herefordiensis1809
Lacey, W. J.The Case for Total Abstinence1889
Lamb, C.Essays of Elia1833
Lambarde, W.Lamentable Complaints1641
Lankester, Dr. E.On Food1861
Larwood, J.History of Signboards1866
Lees, Dr. F. R.History of the Wine Question1840
Essays on the Temperance Question1853
Agreement for Legislative Prohibition1856
Science Temperance Text Book, &c., &c.1884
Lawson, Sir W.Numerous Articles, Lectures, Parliamentary Speeches, &c.
Lemerry, L.Treatise of Foods and Drinkables (Translated by Dr. D. Hay)1745[Pg xvii]
Levi, LeoneOn the Wine Trade and Duties1866
Consumption of Spirits1872
Levison, J. L.Hereditary Tendency of Drunkenness1839
Lewis, DavidBritain’s Social State1872
The Drink Problem, and its Solution1883
Lightbody, J.The Gauger’s Companion1694
Livesey, J.Lecture on Malt Liquor1832
Lucas, Dr. T. P.The Laws of Life and Alcohol1877
Lupton, D.The Country Carbonadoed1632
Lash, W. J. H.Chronic Alcoholism1873
Macdonald, G. B.Apology for the Disuse of Alcohol1841
Macnish, R.Anatomy of Drunkenness1834
Macpherson, D.Annals of Commerce1805
Macrae, D.Dunvarlich
Madox, T.History of the Exchequer1769
Madden, F.Privy Purse Expenses of Queen Mary1831
Madden, R. H.Stimulating Drinks1847
Maffei, ScipioDe Compotationibus Academicis
Maguire, J. F.Father Mathew1863
Malcolm, J. P.Manners and Customs of London1811
Maltman, J.Teetotalism1889
Marchant, W. T.The Praise of Ale1888
Marcet, W.On Chronic Alcoholic Intoxication1862
Markham, J.English Housewife1683
Martyndale, H. F.Analysis of the Calendar
Mayor, Prof. J. E. B.Modicus Cibi1880
Miller, Rev. J.The Coffeehouse1737
Miller, Dr. J.Alcohol, its Place and Power1861
Mills, J.The Merrie Days of England1859
Misson, M.Memoirs and Observations1719
Morewood, S.History of Inebriating Liquors1838
Moxon, H. E.The Laws Affecting Publicans
Mudie, R.Babylon the Great1824
Mudge, Dr. H.Nature and Obligations of Temperance1862
Muirhead, J. P.Drinking Songs1875
Mulder, Prof. C. J.Chemistry of Wine1857
Munroe, Dr. H.Alcohol not Food1867
Myrc, JohnLiber Festivalis
Nash, Th.Pierce Pennilesse1595
Nichols, JohnThe Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, James I., &c.1788
Illustrations of Manners and Expenses
Nichols, J. G.London Pageants1837
Norris, Edw.Establishment of the Household of H. Algernon Percy1770[Pg xviii]
Nott, Dr.Lectures1863
Obsopœus, Vinc.De Arte Bibendi1578
Oinophilos, Bon.(Pseud) Praise of Drunkenness1812
Osborne, S. J.Hints for the Amelioration, &c.1841
Page, Th.An Earnest Appeal on the Effects of Beer-houses1846
Paris, Dr. J. A.On Diet1837
Paris, M.Paradise of Dainty Devices1576
Parkes, Dr. E. A.Public Health1876
Parsons, Benj.Anti-Bacchus1840
Partridge, S.An Admonition to the Keepers of Inns
PasquilPalinodia and his Progress to the Tavern1634
Peacham, T.The Art of Living in London1642
Pegge, S.The Form of Cury1780
Introduction and Condition of the Vine in England (Arch. i. 319)
Pengelly, W.Signs of Hotels, &c.
Phelps, C.A Caveat against Drunkenness1676
Phillips, J.Cyder1708
Pigot, J. M. B.De Morbis Ebriosorum1807
Poole, T.Treatise on Strong Beer1785
Powell, J.The Assyse of Ale
Powell, F.Bacchus Dethroned1870
PorphyryDe Abstinentia
Pulman, J. P. R.Book of the Axe1841
Prynne, W.Healthe’s Sicknesse1628
Pymlico; or Runne Red Cap1609
Rae, Rob.Handbook of Temperance History
Randall, Th.Arislippus1652
The Virtues of a Pot of Good Ale1642
Reade, A. A.Study and Stimulants1883
Redding, C.History and Description of Modern Wines1833
Reeve, Th.God’s Plea for Nineveh1657
Reid, W.The Evils of Modern Drinking1850
Temperance Cyclopædia1851
Our National Vice1858
Reid, Th.Intemperance Considered1850
Ricket, E.Gentleman’s Table Guide1873
Rich, BarnabyThe Irish Hubbub1617
Richardson, Dr. B. W.On Alcohol (Cantor Lectures)1875
Researches on Alcohol1877
Total Abstinence1878
Dialogues on Drink1878[Pg xix]
Richardson, Dr. B. W.Drink and Strong Drink1882
Asclepiad, passim1884-9
Rigby, J.The Drunkard’s Perspective1656
Ridge, Dr. J.The Temperance Primer1879
Non-Alcoholic Treatments1889
Ritchie, W.Scripture Testimony1874
Robson, W.De Effect Vini et Spiritus1803
Roberts, G.Social History of the Southern Counties1856
Rosewell, H.Religious Revel1711
Russell, A. G.Drinking and Disease1868
Russom, J.Evil Effects of Beer-shops1849
Rye, W. B.England as seen by Foreigners1865
Rymer, ThomasRoxburghe Revels1834
Samuelson, J.The History of Drink1878
Beer Scientifically and Socially Considered1870
Scrivener, M.A Treatise against Drunkenness1685
Sedgwick, J. A.New Treatise on Liquors1725
Shannon, Dr.On Brewing and Distillation1805
Sharman, H. R.A Cloud of Witnesses1884
Shaw, T. G.Wine1864
Sheen, J. R.Wines and other Fermented Liquors1864
Sherlock, F.Shakespeare on Temperance, &c.1882
Sinclair, Sir J.History of Revenue1785
Smith, AlbertWassail-Bowl1843
A Bowl of Punch1848
Smith, Dr. EdwardAction of Tea and Alcohol1860
The Action of Alcohol (Journ. Soc. Arts)1862
On the Action of Foods1859
Smith, J.The Temperance Reformation1875
Speechly, W.The Culture of the Vine1790
Strenock, J.God’s Sword drawn against Drunkards1677
Strutt, J.Horda1774
Stubs, P.The Anatomie of Abuses1583
StuckinsDe Antiquorum Conviviis
Symonds, J. A.Wine, Women, and Song1884
Taylor, JohnDrinke and Welcome1637
A Relation of the Wine Taverns1636
Drunkenness an indirect Cause of Crime1860
Teare, J.The Principle of Total Abstinence1846
Terrington, W.Cooling Cups1880
Thomson, ThomasDiet for a Drunkard1612
Thomson, Dr. S.Use and Abuse of Alcoholic Liquor1850
Thorpe, B.Ancient Laws and Institutes1840
Thrupp, J.The Anglo-Saxon Home1862
Thudichum, J. L. W.On the Origin, Nature, &c., of Wine1872[Pg xx]
Timbs, JohnClubs and Club Life1872
TomlineMonastic and Social Life
Tovey, C.Wit ... distilled from Bacchus1878
British and Foreign Spirits1864
Trotter, Dr. T.Essay on Drunkenness1804
Tryon, Dr. T.The Way to Wealth1683
Tuckerman, H. T.The Collector
Turner, Dr. W.A New Boke of the Properties of Wines1568
Ullmus, J. F.De Ebrietate Fugiendâ1589
VennerVia Recta ad Vitam Longam1628
Vizetelly, H.History of Champagne1882
Ward, SamuelWoe to Drunkards1622
Ward and ClarkWarning Piece1682
Ward, NedThe Complete Vintner1721
Ward, GeorgeThe Opinions of Medical Men1868
Warner, R.Antiquitates Culinariæ1791
Weston, AgnesTemperance Work in the Navy1879
Whistlecraft, W.The Monks and the Giants1818
Whitaker, T.The Blood of the Grape1638
White, G.Hints, Moral and Medical1840
Whitewell, E.Evidence on Sunday-Closing1880
Wightman, Mrs.Arrest the Destroyer’s March1877
Whyte, J.The Alcoholic Controversy1880
Wilson, Dr. C.The Pathology of Drunkenness1855
Wilson, C. H.The Myrtle and Vine1800
Winskill, P. T.History of the Temperance Reformation1881
Winslow, F.The Death March of Drinkdom1881
Woodward, J.A Dissuasive from Drunkenness1798
Worlidge, J.Vinetum Britannicum1676
Worth, W. P.Cerevisiarii Comes1692
Wright, J.Country Conversations of Drinking, &c.1694
Wright, T.Homes of other Days1871
Whittaker, ThomasLife’s Battle in Temperance Armour1884
Youmans, E.The Basis of Prohibition1846
Young, F.The Epicure1815
Young, T.England’s Bane1617
Yonge, R.Blemish of Government1655

[Pg 1]




Little is known of the manners and customs of our island inhabitants before the Saxon period; hence, there can be no wonder that all is obscure before the Roman invasion. For the hints that have come to light we are indebted to such foreign historians as wrote in the century before the Christian era, the century of the invasion, and the age immediately subsequent.

These hints, utterly meagre, but generally consistent, are supplied by such writers before Christ as Diodorus and Cæsar, and such historians of the first century as Strabo, Dioscorides, and Pliny.

Diodorus (lib. v.) notes the simplicity in the manners of the British, and their being satisfied with a frugal sustenance, and avoiding the luxuries of wealth. He further observes:—‘Their diet was simple; their food consisted chiefly of milk and venison. Their ordinary drink was water. Upon extraordinary occasions they[Pg 2] drank a kind of fermented liquor made of barley, honey, or apples, and when intoxicated never failed to quarrel, like the ancient Thracians.’

Cæsar (De Bell. Gall. v.) observes that the inhabitants of the interior do not sow grain, but live on milk and flesh.

Strabo, whose description of Britain in his fourth book is barren, and not apparently independent (for he seems mainly to follow Cæsar), writes in the early part of the first century (probably about a.d. 18), that the Britons had some slight notion of planting orchards.

Dioscorides, in the middle of the same century, affirms that the Britons instead of wine use curmi, a liquor made of barley. Pliny the Elder speaks of the drinks in vogue in his time of the beer genus, variously called zythum, celia, cerea, Cereris vinum, curmi, cerevisia. These, he says (lib. xiv.), were known to the nations inhabiting the west of Europe. He exclaims against the wide-spread intemperance: ‘The whole world is addicted to drunkenness; the perverted ingenuity of man has given even to water the power of intoxicating where wine is not procurable. Western nations intoxicate themselves by means of moistened grain.’

It is important to add that Tacitus asserts (Vit. Agricol.) that the soil of this country abundantly produces all fruits except the olive, the grape, and some others which are indigenous to a warm climate.

Putting together these scattered allusions we gather,—(1) that wine was unknown to the Britons before the Roman conquest. It is absurd to suppose that a people as simple as the Britons, and holding so little intercourse with other nations, should as yet obtain from abroad such an article of luxury as wine, or prepare it from a[Pg 3] fruit not a native of the soil. Indeed, it was only about a century before the Roman invasion of England that vines were cultivated to any extent in the Roman empire; so scarce had wines been previously that the libations to the gods were directed to be made with milk.

(2) That the inhabitants of the interior used no intoxicant, unless possibly metheglin. The language of Cæsar implies this. Above the borders of the southern coast, which were inhabited by Belgæ, and by them cultivated, there were few traces of civilisation. The midlanders were unacquainted with agriculture, contenting themselves with pasture; whilst the northerners depended on the produce of the chase, or upon that which grew spontaneously. And everywhere it is the same. The earliest savage inhabitants of any district eat without dressing what the earth produces without cultivation, and drink water (dwr, ὕδωρ). Savage nature is simple and uniform, whereas art and refinement are infinitely various.

(3) That the southerners made some kind of intoxicant from grain, from honey, and from apples.

Before the introduction of agriculture, metheglin was the only strong drink known to our inhabitants, and it was a favourite beverage with them long after they had become acquainted with other drinks. The rearing of bees became an important branch of industry; and we shall find later on, that in the courts of the ancient princes of Wales the mead-maker held an important position in point of dignity.

Metheglin (Welsh Meddyglyn), also called hydromel and mead, was a drink as universal as it was ancient. Testimony is afforded to this by the Sanscrit mathu, Greek μέθυ and μέλι, Latin mel, Saxon medo and medu,[Pg 4] Danish miod, German meth. And here one must regret to demur to the suggested derivation of Metheglin from Matthew Glinn, who possessed a large stock of bees that he wished to turn into gain. The modes of the manufacture of this drink vary much in different countries. In the times to which we refer, the principal ingredients were rain-water and honey. Somewhat later it is described as wine and honey sodden together.

After the introduction of agriculture, ale (called by the Britons kwrw or cwrw) became a common drink. An early writer thus describes its manufacture: ‘The grain is steeped in water and made to germinate; it is then dried and ground; after which it is infused in a certain quantity of water, which being fermented becomes a pleasant, warming, strengthening, and intoxicating liquor.’

Cider became known to the Britons at an early date. John Beale, a seventeenth-century authority on orchard produce, thought seider to be a genuine British word; but it is generally referred to the Greek σίκερα, which, curiously enough, is rendered in Wycliffe’s version of the Bible, sydyr:—‘For he schal be gret before the Lord; and he schal not drinke wyn ne sydyr.’[1] Macpherson, in his Annals, rightly says that cider extracted from wild apples was early known to the British in common with other Northern nations, whilst Whitaker (History of Manchester) thinks that this beverage was introduced by the Romans. The opinion entertained by some that it was a Norman invention is entirely a mistake. The[Pg 5] principal cider districts of the present day are Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Monmouth, Somerset, and Devon. Its medicinal qualities are variously stated. Lord Bacon accounted it to promote long life. Sir George Baker considered it a cure for dropsy. On the other hand, Dr. Epps (Journal of Health and Disease) speaks of dropsy and insanity as common diseases in Herefordshire, and says it is easy to understand how diseased kidneys are produced by the acid in the cider, and how dropsy follows from these diseased kidneys.

We next inquire what kind of Inns were known to the Ancient Britons. During the time of the Druids there was an order of people called Beatachs, Brughnibhs, or keepers of open houses, established for the express purpose of hospitality. These were pretty much of the same character as the chaoultries in India, and the caravanseries in the East. In Ireland, the bruigh was a person provided with land and stock by the prince of the territory, to keep beds, stabling, and such amusements as backgammon boards. The character of these houses was, as we shall find, vastly altered in Saxon times, when their names, Eala-hus, Win-hus, &c., sufficiently betokened the rationale of their existence.

We have seen that wine was unknown in this country before the Roman occupation. But the tide of emigration soon set in from Rome to Britain. The new-comers brought with them the arts and manufactures of their own country. The importation of wines presented to our islanders a new species of luxury. Evidently contrasting the simple habits of her subjects with those of the Roman invaders, Queen Boadicea (a.d. 61), making ready for battle, appeals in an impassioned speech to[Pg 6] the heart of her troops, in which she exclaims: ‘To us, every herb and root are food, every juice is our oil, and water is our wine.’ For well-nigh three centuries of Roman occupation, wine continued to be an import. It remained for a Roman emperor to give permission to the Britons to cultivate vines and to make wine. The circumstances were these: The Emperor Domitian (a.d. 81), in order to check the growth of intemperance, issued an edict for the destruction of half the vineyards, and prohibited any more planting of vines without licence from the emperors. Probus acceded to the imperial purple, a.d. 276. This emperor, having conquered Gaul, revoked the edict of Domitian, and allowed the provinces to plant vines and make wine. Britain was included in the licence. From that time the purple grape twined around many a British homestead. But whether it ever really thrived in our soil and climate is more than conjectural. Pliny throws doubt upon the whole subject.[2] Camden regards the boon as affording shade rather than produce.[3] Still there is a chain of evidence that for centuries vineyards were planted in various districts, which would not have been the case had they been a complete failure. Five centuries after the edict of Probus, Bede testifies to their existence;[4] whilst Holinshed, in the sixteenth century, writes:—‘that wine did grow here, the old notes of tithes for wine that yet remain, besides the records of sundry sutes commenced in diverse ecclesiastical courts; ... also the enclosed parcels almost in every abbeie yet called vineyards,[Pg 7] may be a notable witnesse. The Isle of Elie also was in the first times of the Normans called le ile des vignes.’[5] Nor can we wonder at the efforts to establish the grape as a native production when we consider the almost universal attachment to the fruit in one or other of its forms. If mead was in general demand, still more so was wine. The common appetite found fitting expression in a common nomenclature, and we find the names given to wine in every country bearing a striking similarity. Compare the English wine with the Gaelic fion, the French vin, Italian vino, Welsh gwin, Danish viin, German wein, Latin vinum, Greek οἶνος, Hebrew yayin, the root term conveying the notion, according to some, of boiling up, ferment, whilst others refer it to the Hebrew verb signifying to press out.

Whether an advantage or otherwise, to the Romans undoubtedly we owe signboards. The bush, which was for ages with us the sign of an inn, we owe immediately to them. Our proverb, ‘Good wine needs no bush,’ is of course own child to the Latin ‘Vino vendibili suspensa hedera non opus est’—‘Wine that will sell needs no advertisement.’ Our sign of ‘Two Jolly Brewers’ carrying a tun slung on a long pole is the counterpart of a relic from Pompeii representing two slaves carrying an amphora.[6]

Again, our country owes to Roman influence the national custom of toasting or health-drinking.

The present writer has observed elsewhere[7] that among the Romans luxury was carried to unbounded[Pg 8] excess. Many were their forms of revelry; amongst these were comissationes, or drinking bouts pure and simple. At these no food was taken, save as a relish to the wine. Specimens of their toasting formalities will be found in several classical authors.[8]

It were idle to imagine that the Britons were uninfluenced by such marked features of social life. If these customs had not been adopted by them before the time of Agricola, it is certain that when that most diplomatic of governors held sway here, he would teach the jeunesse dorée to drink healths to the emperor, and to toast the British belles of the hour in brimming bumpers. Sensual banquets, with their attendant revelry, no less than spacious baths and elegant villas, speedily became as palatable to the new subjects as to their corrupt masters.[9]

Intemperance was no stranger to any rank of society. Not even the imperial purple was stainless.[10] Thus was [Pg 9]the soil prepared for the seed so abundantly to be sown when the Saxon, the Roman’s successor, should incorporate himself with our British population.

[Pg 10]


[1] σίκερα is of course akin to the Hebrew shâkar שֵׁכָר, and it is at least curious that the three important potables may be referred to Hebrew origin: Wine, to the Greek οἶνος, Hebrew יַיִן Yayin, and Beer possibly to the Hebrew בר corn without the vowel point.

[2] Natural History, iv. 17.

[3] Britannia, London, 1590. ‘Quas in Britannia ex Probi Imperatoris tempore umbraculi magis quam fructus gratiâ habuimus.’

[4] ‘Vineas etiam quibusdam in locis germinant.’

[5] Chronicles, i. 186.

[6] A mass of information upon the subject of signboards has been collected by Messrs. Larwood and Hotten in their History of Signboards.

[7] History of Toasting; London, 1881.

[8] E.g.

‘Te nominatim voco in bibendo.’

‘Bene te! Bene tibi!’

‘Salutem tibi propino.’

‘Bacchi tibi sumimus haustus.’

Compare also Tibul. II. i. 33: ‘Bene Messalam! sua quisque ad pocula dicat.’

Plautus. Curcul. ii. 3, 8: ‘Propino poculum magnum, ille ebibit.’

Cicero. Tuscul. Disput. i. 40: ‘Propino hoc pulcro Critiæ, qui in eum fuerat teterrimus; Græci enim in conviviis solent nominare cui poculum tradituri sint.’

Zumpt interprets ‘Græco more’ as ‘Mos propinandi,’ or the custom of addressing the person to whom you wish well, and offering him a glass to empty, after having first put it to your lips.—Cf. Martial, lib. i. Ep. 72, Horace iii. Ode 19.

[9] The moral depravity and social degradation of the Roman world at this time is forcibly described by Salvian, the Bishop of Marseilles, in his De Gubernatione Dei. This treatise was translated into English, London, 1700.

[10] It is recorded of the Emperor Bonosus that so notorious a drinker was he that when he committed suicide, a.d. 281, after his defeat in Banffshire, it was the common jest with the soldiers that there hung a tankard and not a man.



It is to the heroic songs of the day that we must at this period mainly look for the history of manners and of convivial life. The chieftains assembled on the mead-bench, and were diverted by the literary genius of the ‘scóp’ or poet. Whether in the capacity of household retainer or wandering minstrel, he commanded protection, respect, and admiration. He was the popular exponent of the fashion of the time, and from his productions we can form a tolerable estimate of the prodigious part which drink played in the social life of the Anglo-Saxon. In this respect it is not too much to say that we inherit from the Saxons a perfect legacy of corruption; it is therefore with considerable qualification that we can accept the eulogies passed upon our forefathers by some historians, and notably by Sharon Turner, who represents our Saxon ancestors as bringing with them a superior domestic and moral character, as well as new political, juridical, and intellectual blessings.

One record we have of the manners of the Saxons before they occupied Britain; from it we are able to gather what were their essentially individual usages, and thus are able to draw a definite line between their native customs and those derived after their settlement amongst us from the Romanised Britons.

[Pg 11]

This poem is the romance of Beowulf, the oldest specimen of Anglo-Saxon literature—indeed, the oldest epic in any modern language.[11] The scene is laid in the Cimbric Chersonese. A certain king, Hrothgar by name, determined to build a palace, ‘a great mead-hall.’ In the neighbourhood lived a giant monster who used to make nightly incursions upon the palace during the ale-carouse; on one occasion killing thirty of its inmates. Beowulf, the brother of Hrothgar, resolved to deliver them from this scourge. With fifteen of his followers he proceeded to his brother’s palace. Hrothgar and his retainers were found drinking their ale and mead. The poem describes the visit:—‘There was a bench cleared in the beer-hall.... The thane observed his office. He that in his hand bare the twisted ale-cup, he poured the bright, sweet liquor.’ Meanwhile the bard strikes up; the queen enters the hall; she serves the liquor, first presenting the cup to the king, then to the guests. Thus do the festivities continue till nightfall. Beowulf and his company sleep in the hall, ‘the wine-hall, the treasure house of men, studded with vessels.’ The giant appeared in the night, and after a struggle was slain by Beowulf. The next day there were great rejoicings at the death of the monster. ‘The lay was sung, the song of the gleeman, the noise from the benches grew loud; cupbearers gave the wine from wondrous vessels.’ The queen again presented the cup to the king and to Beowulf; the festivities were prolonged into the night. Soon, however, was vengeance on the track; the mother of the giant appeared at the [Pg 12]palace and carried off a counsellor of Hrothgar, one of the ‘beer-drunken heroes of the ale-wassail.’ Beowulf is again the deliverer, and subsequently ascends the throne of his brother. A sketch of early manners like this, in the general dearth of documentary evidence, is invaluable. It is an outline, but one we can readily fill in.

From this same Cimbric peninsula came the Saxon leader Hengist, whose feast in honour of the British king Vortigern is familiar to every one, though it rests mainly on the very questionable authority of Nennius.[12] This writer states that the Saxon chief prepared an entertainment to which he invited the king, his officers, &c., having previously enjoined his daughter to serve them so profusely with wine and ale that they might soon become intoxicated. The plan succeeded; Vortigern demanded the hand of the girl. The province of Kent was the price paid. This account, as given by Nennius, is supplemented by Geoffrey of Monmouth, a British historian, or rather romancer, of the twelfth century. The story is always worth repeating. He says[13] that when the feast was over, ‘the young lady came out of her chamber bearing a golden cup full of wine, with which she approached the king, and making a low courtesy, said to him: “Lauerd king wacht heil!” The king, at the sight of the lady’s face, was on a sudden both surprised and inflamed with her beauty; and calling to his interpreter, asked him what she said, and what answer he should make her. “She called you ‘Lord King,’” said the interpreter, “and offered to drink your health. Your answer to her must be, ‘Drinc heil!’” Vortigern accordingly answered, “Drinc heil!” and bade [Pg 13]her drink; after which he took the cup from her hand, kissed her, and drank himself. From that time to this (says the chronicler) it has been the custom in Britain that he who drinks to any one says, “Wacht heil!” and he who pledges him answers, “Drinc heil!” Vortigern, being now drunk with the variety of liquors, the devil took this opportunity to enter into his heart, and to make him in love with the damsel, so that he became suitor to her father for her.’[14]

We have seen that drink was a prominent link in the chain whereby Kent passed from British into Saxon hands. If Nennius may be trusted, it played an equally important part in the cession of East-Sex, South-Sex, and Middle-Sex. The substance of the story as told by this chronicler is, that Hengist proposed to ratify a treaty of peace with the British king Vortigern, by a feast to which he invited him and his nobles. He bade his Saxons who feasted with them, at a given signal, when the Britons were sufficiently inebriated, each to draw his knife and kill his man. The plot succeeded. Three hundred British nobles were slain in a state of intoxication, while the captive king purchased his ransom at the cost of the three above-mentioned provinces. The Welsh bard evidently alludes to this in the lines:—

When they bargained for Thanet, with such scanty discretion,
With Hors and Hengys in their violent career,
Their aggrandisement was to us disgraceful,
After the consuming secret with the slaves at the confluent stream.
Conceive the intoxication at the great banquet of mead;
Conceive the deaths in the great hour of necessity.[15]

[Pg 14]

We can judge from the above incidents the kind of influence which the Saxons would be likely to exercise upon the Romanised Briton. Not that intemperance was a new plant of Saxon setting, for we have already found that the seed sown of Roman debauchery was beginning to yield the rank crop of excess in every grade of society. Ancient British poetry affords ample proof of this indictment. One of the most important fragments of ancient Cymric literature is The Gododin of Aneurin, a poem of the sixth century, the first poem printed in the Welsh Archæology. It recounts a mighty patriotic struggle of the Britons under Mynyddawr with the Teutonic settlers in the district, which may be loosely described as lying between the Tees and Forth. The ever-recurring subject in this poem is the intoxication of the Britons from excessive drinking of mead before the battle fought at Cattraeth. A few quotations will suffice:—

The warriors marched to Cattraeth, full of words;
Bright mead gave them pleasure, their bliss was their bane.
    *    *    *    *
The warriors marched to Cattraeth, full of mead;
Drunken, but firm in array; great the shame.
    *    *    *    *
Just fate we deplore.
For the sweetness of mead,
In the day of our need,
Is our bitterness; blunts all our arms for the strife;
Is a friend to the lip and a foe to the life.
    *    *    *    *
I drank the Mordei’s wine and mead,
I drank, and now for that I bleed.[16]

Unquestionable allusion to this poem of Aneurin is made in Owen Cyveilioc’s Hîrlas, written in the twelfth [Pg 15]century:—

Hear how with their portion of mead, went with their Lord to Cattraeth,
Faithful the purpose of their sharp weapons,
The host of Mynydauc, to their fatal rest.

To the sixth century are also to be referred the poems of Taliesin, which tell of the battles between the Britons and Saxons. One is preserved which is commonly called the Mead Song, which he wrote to obtain Elphin’s release from prison. It is thus rendered[17]:—

I will implore the Sovereign, Supreme in every region,
The Being who supports the heavens, Lord of all space,
The Being who made the waters, to every body good;
The Being who sends every gift and prospers it,
That Maelgwyn of Mona be inspired with mead, and cheer us with it
From the mead horns—the foaming pure and shining liquor
Which the bees provide, but do not enjoy.
Mead distilled I praise—its eulogy is everywhere,
Precious to the creature whom the earth maintains.
God made it for man for his happiness;
The fierce and the mute, both enjoy it.
The Lord made both the wild and the gentle,
And has given them clothing for ornament,
And food and drink to last till judgment.

I will implore the Sovereign, Supreme in the land of peace,
To liberate Elphin from banishment,
The man that gave me wine, ale, and mead,
And the great princely steeds of gay appearance,
[Pg 16]And to me yet would give as usual:
With the will of God, he would bestow from respect
Innumerable festivities in the course of peace.
Knight of Mead, relation of Elphin, distant be thy period of inaction.[18]

A satire is also preserved of the same Taliesin, upon the wandering minstrels of his time. He imputes to them all kinds of vice:—

In the night they carouse, in the day they sleep;
Idle, they get food without labour;
They hate the churches, but seek the liquor houses;
From every gluttony they refrain not;
Excesses of eating and drinking is what they desire.[19]

Another early British poet, Llywarch Hên, who flourished in both the sixth and seventh centuries, affords further proof that strong drink, ale or mead, was the one thing needful. In his elegy on Urien of Reged we find—

He was a shield to his country;
His course was a wheel in battle.
Better to me would be his life than his mead.

And again—

This hearth; no shout of heroes now adheres to it:
More usual on its floor
Was the mead; and the inebriated warriors.

And here we naturally pause to inquire whether it is fair to gauge the habits of the day from extracts such as [Pg 17]these. May they not have been the heated effusions of the moment? May not these bards have cast the shadows of their own excited brains on all around? Alas! the pages of contemporary history, and the censures of the Church, too surely confirm the impressions of the poet. Thus, Gildas, the British monk, writing in the latter half of the sixth century (Epist. De Excid. Britann.), laments (§ 21) that ‘not only the laity, but our Lord’s own flock, and its shepherds, who ought to have been an example to the people, slumbered away their time in drunkenness, as if they had been dipped in wine.’ Again (§ 83), ‘Little do ye put in execution that which the holy prophet Joel hath spoken in admonishment of slothful priests, saying, Awake ye who are drunk from your wine, and weep and bewail ye all, who have drunk wine even to drunkenness, because joy and delight are taken away from your mouths.’ And once more (§ 109), ‘These are the words, that with apparent effect should be made good and approved—deacons in like manner, that they should be not overgiven to much wine.... And now, trembling truly to make any longer stay on these matters, I can, for a conclusion, affirm one thing certainly, which is, that all these are changed into contrary actions, insomuch that clerks are shameless and deceitful in their speeches, given to drinking.’

Do we wonder that this state of things was condemned? The British Church could no longer keep silent. Decrees respecting intemperance were issued in the Synod held by St. David (a.d. 569), interesting as the only legislative relic of the British Church upon this subject; unless, as Mr. Bridgett remarks in his useful little book, The Discipline of Drink, we admit the[Pg 18] monastic penance of St. Gildas the Wise (a.d. 570): ‘If any monk through drinking too freely gets thick of speech so that he cannot join in the psalmody, he is to be deprived of his supper.’

The following are among the canons of St. David:—

(1) Priests about to minister in the temple of God and drinking wine or strong drink through negligence, and not ignorance, must do penance three days. If they have been warned, and despise, then forty days.

(2) Those who get drunk through ignorance must do penance fifteen days; if through negligence, forty days; if through contempt, three quarantains.

(3) He who forces another to get drunk out of hospitality must do penance as if he had got drunk himself.

(4) But he who out of hatred or wickedness, in order to disgrace or mock at others, forces them to get drunk, if he has not already sufficiently done penance, must do penance as a murderer of souls.

Enough has been adduced to prove that the lovers of debauch among the Anglo-Saxons could have found no uncongenial soil in Britain. But their settlement in our island did not tend to any moral millennium. They found matters bad; they made them ten times worse. At meals, after meals, by day, by night, the brimming tankard foamed. When all were satisfied with their dinner, says the chronicler, they continued drinking till the evening. Drinking was, in short, the occupation of the after part of the day. A cut taken from the Anglo-Saxon calendar[20] represents a drinking party. The lord and the two principal guests are sitting at the high seat, or daïs, drinking after dinner. The excess to which they yielded at banquets may be illustrated from a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon poem, entitled ‘Judith,’ which is thus translated[21]:—

[Pg 19] There were deep bowls
Carried along the benches often,
So likewise cups and pitchers
Full to the people who were sitting on couches:
The renowned shielded warriors
Were fated, while they partook thereof....
Then was Holofernes,
The munificent patron of men,
In the guest hall;
He laughed and rioted,
Made tumult and noise,
That the children of men
Might hear afar,
How the stern one
Stormed and shouted.
Moody and drunk with mead,
Thus this wicked man
During the whole day
His followers
Drenched with wine,
The haughty dispenser of treasure,
Until they lay down intoxicated,
He over-drenched all his followers
Like as though they were struck with death,
Exhausted of every good.

An important collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry is still preserved under the title of the Exeter Book, the original MS. of which is kept at Exeter: being a portion of the gift of books to the Church at Exeter by Bishop Leofric in the eleventh century. It is a medley of legends, religious songs, apophthegms, riddles, &c. These riddles, commonly called Symposii Ænigmata, were very popular among the Saxons, whether the meaning of the title be ‘Riddles composed by Symposius,’ [Pg 20]or ‘Nuts to crack after dinner.’ Two specimens will suffice. The first, probably taken from the story of Lot—

There sat a man at his wine
With his two wives,
And his two sons,
And his two daughters,
Own sisters,
And their two sons,
Comely first-born children;
The father was there
Of each one
Of the noble ones,
With the uncle and the nephew:
There were five in all
Men and women
Sitting there.

The second is a very ancient specimen of that kind of ballad of which the modern John Barleycorn is the anti-type:—

A part of the earth is
Prepared beautifully,
With the hardest,
And with the sharpest,
And with the grimmest
Of the productions of men,
Cut and ...
Turned and dried,
Bound and twisted,
Bleached and awakened,
Ornamented and poured out,
Carried afar
To the doors of people,
It is joy in the inside
Of living creatures,
It knocks and slights
Those, of whom before while alive
[Pg 21]A long while
It obeys the will,
And expostulateth not,
And then after death
It takes upon it to judge,
To talk variously.
It is greatly to seek
By the wisest man,
What this creature is.[22]

The principal drinks which the Saxons adopted were wine, mead, ale, cider, and piment.

The permission granted by the Emperor Probus to plant vines has already been mentioned, as well as the testimony to their existence by the historian Bede. John Bagford, a book collector and antiquary of the seventeenth century, says:—

I have often thought, and am now fully persuaded, that the planting of vines in the adjacent parts about this city was first of all begun by the Romans, an industrious people, and famous for their skill in agriculture and gardening, as may appear from their rei agrariæ scriptores, as well as from Pliny and other authors. We had a vineyard in East Smithfield, another in Hatton Garden (which at this time is called Vine Street), and a third in St. Giles-in-the-Fields. Many places in the country bear the name of the Vineyard to this day, especially in the ancient monasteries, as Canterbury, Ely, Abingdon, &c., which were left as such by the Romans.[23]

But whatever amount of evidence be forthcoming that vineyards existed in the time of the Saxons, though there is no doubt that they were in the main attached to the monasteries, still it is certain that wine was not a common drink among them; but when introduced into their feasts it usually led to intemperance. It may also be added that Bede mentions warm wine as a drink. [Pg 22]But their most common beverage was mead. The extent to which this drink prevailed amongst them is curiously indicated by the nature of the fine that was imposed upon the members of their friendly societies whose conduct was called in question. It appears that for seven out of thirteen descriptions of offence, the members were fined a quantity of honey, varying in measure with the nature of the offence, e.g.

Any member calling another names was fined a quart of honey.

For using abusive language to a non-member, one quart of honey.

A knight for waylaying a man, a sextarius of honey.

For setting a trap for any person’s injury, a sextarius of honey.

Any member neglecting when deputed to fetch a fellow-member who might have fallen sick, or died at a distance from home, forfeited a sextarius of honey. And so forth. No doubt this honey was turned into mead, and drunk on the gala days of the society.

Of ale three kinds are mentioned at this time: viz. clear ale, mild ale, and Welsh ale. Accordingly we find the Abbot of Medeshamstede letting certain land to Wulfrid upon this condition, that Wulfrid should each year deliver into the minster, among other items, two tuns full of pure ale and ten measures of Welsh ale, an agreement at which, adds the Saxon Chronicle, the king, archbishop, and several bishops were present. Welsh ale is mentioned at a much earlier date in the laws of Ine.

It was stated in a former section that cider became known to the Britons at an early date. The Anglo-Saxons knew it under the name of Æppelwin. Its origin is not fully substantiated. Africa has been suggested as its[Pg 23] birthplace, probably because the fathers SS. Augustine and Tertullian mention it. St. Jerome, too, speaks of an intoxicating drink made of the juice of apples.

Lastly, the Saxons drank piment, but not generally. This was a mixture of acid wine, honey, sugar, and spices. We find it mentioned in the romance of Arthour and Merlin, in the lines—

There was piment and claré,
To heighe lordlinges and to meyne.

Piment and wine were both at this time imports. Thus in a volume of Saxon dialogues (Tib. A. iii.), one of the characters, a merchant, describes himself and his occupation. To the question ‘What do you bring us?’ he replies, ‘Skins, silks, costly gems, and gold; various garments, pigment, wine, &c.’

Of Saxon festivals none were more celebrated than their Jule or Yule (to which corresponds our Christmas), a strange combination of conviviality and religion. It appears to be a Saxon adaptation of an ancient Celtic festival. The Celts worshipped the sun. At the winter solstice the people testified their joy that the ‘greater light’ had returned to this part of the heavens, by celebrating a festival or sun-feast, which took its name from Heol, Hiaul, Houl, dialectic varieties of the Celtic expression for ‘sun.’ The prefix of the article will account for the Gothic forms Gehul, Juul, and hence again the softened forms, Jul, Yule. Upon this heathen festival the Christians engrafted their great festival, the anniversary of the rising of the Sun of Righteousness upon a dark world.[24]

Before leaving this subject notice should be taken of [Pg 24]the grafol, or rent, paid upon lands. It furnishes some incidental details of the social life of our ancestors. Upon a certain estate in Lincolnshire we find that the following yearly rent was reserved:—(1) To the monastery, two tuns of bright ale, two oxen fit for slaughter, two mittan, or measures, of Welsh ale,[25] and six hundred loaves. (2) To the abbot’s private estate, one horse, thirty shillings of silver, or half a pound, one night’s pastus, fifteen mittan of bright and five of Welsh ale, fifteen sesters of mild ale.

Anglo-Saxon guilds, or social confederations, were associated with drink. Every member was compelled to bring a certain amount of malt or honey. The fines they imposed also imply that the materials of conviviality were not forgotten.

Amidst such surroundings it is scarcely matter for surprise that we occasionally read of profuseness in the high places of the Church as well as the State. Some of the leading ecclesiastics had been brought up in the lap of plenty. Wilfrid (consecrated Archbishop of York, a.d. 669) is described by his biographer, Eddius, as the most luxurious prelate of his age, but it should be remembered that he was the son of a Bernician noble, taught in his childhood to serve the cup in the mead-hall. [Pg 25]His fame, however, for sanctity is abundantly attested. He has been called the first patron of architecture among the Anglo-Saxons. Hexham and Ripon owe to him their sacred piles. At the dedication of the latter was a disgraceful scene of riotous festivity in which the kings Ecgfrid and Aelwin with the principal nobles were engaged. Such a scene upon such an occasion would now happily be impossible. And it is by comparisons of this kind that one is able definitely to estimate the improvement or retrogression of moral tone. It should be added by way of extenuation that such festivities were continuations of the heathen paganalia, were countenanced—indeed, with certain modifications commanded—by order of Gregory the Great (a.d. 601), to Mellitus, the abbot, who accompanied Augustine to England. His words, as given by Bede (Eccl. Hist. i. 30), are—‘On the day of dedication, or the birthday of holy martyrs, whose relics are there deposited, let the people build themselves booths of the boughs of trees, round about those churches which have been turned to that use from temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting.... For there is no doubt that it is impossible to efface every thing at once from their obdurate minds.’

[Pg 26]


[11] A translation of this poem by John Mitchell Kemble was published in 1837; one by Thomas Arnold in 1876; another more recently by Colonel Lumsden; another by Rev. S. Fox, 1864.

[12] A chapter is devoted to the question of the genuineness and chronology of Nennius in Wright’s Biographia Britannica Literaria.

[13] Geoffrey of Monmouth: British History, chap. xii.

[14] For Robert de Brunne’s metrical version of this story, cf. Warton, Hist. Poet., i. 73. For Robert of Gloucester’s account, see Knight, Old Eng., p. 70.

[15] Golyddan: Arymes Prydein Vawr, 2 (as rendered by Turner).

[16] Professor Morley’s rendering is here adopted. Part of the Gododin was translated by Gray. A version of the whole is to be found in Davies’s Mythology of the Druids. It was translated by Probert in 1820, and by Rev. John Williams ap Ithel in 1858. It should be mentioned that Davies strangely maintains that the poem does not refer to the battle of Cattraeth, but to the massacre of the Welsh chieftains by Hengist’s command at a banquet at Stonehenge.

[17] Turner, Vindication of the Ancient British Poems.

[18] The poems of Taliesin are printed in the Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales, collected out of ancient MSS.

[19] An incident in his life also illustrates the intemperance of the time. Fishing at sea in a skin coracle, he was seized by Irish pirates, who carried him off towards Ireland. Escaping from them in his coracle while they were engaged in drunken revelry, he was tossed about at the mercy of the waves till the coracle stuck to the point of a pole in the weir of the Prince of Cardigan, at whose court he remained till the time of the great inundation which formed Cardigan Bay.

[20] MS. Cotton, Julius A. vi. inserted in Wright’s Homes of other Days.

[21] The original is given in Thorp’s Analecta Anglo-Saxonica, London, 1834.

[22] Exeter MS. fol. 107, vo.

[23] Prefixed to Collectanea, 1770, p. 75.

[24] See Christmas Festivities, by the present writer.

[25] Warner mentions this drink as in his days a speciality (1797). He says: ‘We now reached the Beaufort Arms (Crickhowel), where we refreshed ourselves with a bottle of cwrrw or Welsh ale.... I cannot say that it proved agreeable to our palates, though the Cambrians seek it with avidity, and quaff it with the most patient perseverance. Their ancestors, you know, displayed a similar propensity eighteen hundred years ago, and the old Celt frequently sunk under the powerful influence of the ancient cwrrw. It was then, as now, made from barley, but the grain was dried in a peculiar way which gives it a smoky taste, and renders it glutinous, heady, and soporiferous.’ Cf. Pliny, lib. xiv.: ‘Est et occidentis populis sua ebrietas, fruge madida’; and Strabo, lib. iv.: ‘Ligures utuntur potu hordeaceo.’


SAXON PERIOD—continued.

Amongst the kings who, in the seventh century, governed parts of Anglia, Edwin stands out prominently as a beacon of beneficent rule. Two stories concerning him are treasured from childhood, viz. his conversion to Christianity, through the bringing back to his recollection a mysterious vision by Paulinus, and the speech of the royal counsellor, who compared human life to the flitting of a sparrow through a festal hall. But one of his philanthropic measures is of special interest in the present connection. Edwin had been by compulsion a wanderer. He knew the trials of a fugitive’s life. He had experienced the hardships of long journeys on tedious roads which lacked accommodation for travellers; so, with a heart full of sympathy, he caused to be set up in the highways stakes, and ladles chained to them, wherever he had observed a pure spring. Bede remarks that he carried a tufa before him; he deserves that it be never displaced.

The entertaining of strangers seems in these times to have fallen to the clergy: hence the constant injunction to them to attend to hospitality. It is in this sense that Mr. Soames is justified in saying (Anglo-Saxon Church) that clergymen were in fact the innkeepers of those ancient times. One of the Excerpts of Ecgbright enjoins ‘that bishops and priests have an house for the entertainment of strangers, not far from the church.’[Pg 27]

It would be naturally expected that the Church should have made some effort to stem the wide-spread inebriety of the Saxon population. And such was the case. We have on record an almost continuous series of ecclesiastical canons, decrees, and anathemas bearing upon the national intemperance. Theodore, seventh Archbishop of Canterbury (668-693), decrees that if a Christian layman drink to excess, he must do a fifteen days’ penance. In the following century, Bede, in a letter to Egbert, Archbishop of York, writes: ‘It is commonly reported of certain bishops that the way they serve Christ is this—They have no one near them of any religious spirit or continence, but only such as are given to laughter, jokes, amusing stories, feasting, drunkenness, and the other snares of a sensual life—men who feed their belly with meats, rather than their souls with the heavenly sacrifice.’

In the middle of the same century, Winfrid, Archbishop of the Germans (upon whom the Pope conferred the name of Boniface), writes to Cuthbert, Archbishop of Canterbury: ‘It is reported that in your dioceses the vice of drunkenness is too frequent; so that not only certain bishops do not hinder it, but they themselves indulge in excess of drink, and force others to drink till they are intoxicated. This is most certainly a great crime for a servant of God to do or to have done, since the ancient canons decree that a bishop or a priest given to drink should either resign or be deposed. And Truth itself has said: “Take heed to yourselves lest at any time your heart be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness;” and St. Paul, “Be not drunk with wine wherein is luxury;” and the Prophet Isaias, “Woe to you that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength [Pg 28]at drunkenness.” This is an evil peculiar to pagans, and to our race. Neither the Franks, nor the Gauls, nor the Lombards, nor the Romans, nor the Greeks commit it. Let us then repress this iniquity by decrees of synods and the prohibitions of the Scriptures, if we are able. If we fail, at least, by avoiding and denouncing it, let us clear our own souls from the blood of the reprobate.’

This great Anglo-Saxon missionary not only preached but practised. His Benedictine monks he describes as men of strict abstinence, who used neither flesh, wine, nor strong drink.

The Excerptions of Ecgbright date about the middle of this century. Johnson, English Canons, assigns them to 740; Sir H. Spelman to 750.

Amongst these are several sayings and canons of the fathers respecting intemperance. Thus (No. 14)—‘That none who is numbered among the priests cherish the vice of drunkenness; nor force others to be drunk by his importunity.’ (No. 18)—‘That no priest go to eat or drink in taverns.’

In the supplemental Excerptions of the same Ecgbright (MS. marked K.2, in the CCCC. Library), we have (No. 74) ‘A canon of the fathers. If a bishop, or one in orders, be an habitual drunkard, let him either desist or be deposed.’

In the same Excerpts, penal intoxication is defined—‘This is drunkenness, when the state of the mind is changed, the tongue stammers, the eyes are disturbed, the head is giddy, the belly is swelled, and pain follows.’

In 747 a council was convened by Cuthbert at Cloves-hoo. The 9th canon bids priests ‘by all means take care, as becomes the ministers of God, that they do not give to the seculars or monastics an example of [Pg 29]ridiculous or wicked conversation; that is, by drunkenness, love of filthy lucre, obscene talking, and the like.’

The 21st canon ordains ‘that monastics and ecclesiastics do not follow nor affect the vice of drunkenness, but avoid it as deadly poison.... Nor let them force others to drink intemperately, but let their entertainments be cleanly and sober, not luxuries, ... and that, unless some necessary infirmity compel them, they do not, like common tipplers, help themselves or others to drink, till the canonical, that is the ninth hour, be fully come.’

Canon 20 enacts: ‘Let not nunneries be places of secret rendezvous for filthy talk, junketing, drunkenness, and luxury, but habitations for such as live in continence and sobriety.’

In the year 793 Alcuin gave good advice to the brethren at Jarrow: ‘Absconditas comessationes et furtivas ebrietates quasi foveam inferni vitate.’

One of the Saxon drinks to which reference has been made, viz. piment, seems to have been drunk to excess in the eighth and ninth centuries. Piment was a fascinating compound; it was in fact a liqueur. The word is probably derived from pigmentarii, apothecaries who originally prepared it. The most common varieties of it were hippocras and clarry. In the year 817, the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle forbad the use of piment to the regular clergy, except on solemn festival days.

In the eighth century, taverns or ale-houses where liquor was sold had been established, and very soon fell into disrepute. Hence the injunction of Ecgbright that no priest go to eat or drink at a tavern (ceapealethelum).

A good idea of the proportionate consumption of[Pg 30] meats and drinks can be obtained from the sales and gifts of provisions to the monasteries. For instance, as has been already alluded to, we find from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that in the year 852, Ceolred, Abbot of Medeshamstede (Peterborough), and the monks let to Wulfred the land of Sempringham, on the condition that, after his decease, the land should return to the minster, and that Wulfred should give the land of Sleaford to Medeshamstede, and each year should deliver into the minster sixty loads of wood, twelve of coal, six of faggots, and two tuns full of pure ale, and two beasts fit for slaughter, and six hundred loaves, and ten measures of Welsh ale.

But the regulations of the various monasteries widely differed, as did the regulations of each monastery at different periods. It would appear that at one time the use of wine was prohibited in the monastic houses; thus, in the year 738, wine was permitted to the monks of England by a decree of Bishop Aidan, founder of Lindisfarne monastery. Sometimes a large allowance was granted; thus Ethelwold allowed his monastery a great bowl from which the obbæ of the monks were filled twice a day for their dinner and supper. On their festivals he allowed them at dinner a sextarium of mead between six of the brethren, the same at supper between twelve of them. On certain great feasts he gave them a measure of wine.

It will be necessary when dealing with the times of King Edgar to advert at some length to Benedictine Monachism, so we may postpone for the present an estimate of conventual morality.

It is instructive to observe how a courageous and virtuous soul may maintain its purity unsullied amidst surroundings the most calculated to tarnish it. To live in any century of Saxon times was a moral ordeal. To[Pg 31] possess certain tastes was to enhance the probation. The life of King Alfred furnishes us with a lesson of the type intended. His intellectual powers and tastes would have strewn the path of most men with briars, if not precipitated them into pitfalls. The love of music and poetry, the concomitants of which were the ruin of so many of his contemporaries, was conscientiously treasured by him as a talent to be occupied. At a time when the horn of mead circulated at a festival as freely as the harp; at a time when the song of the Northmen too often became the pretext for intoxication and its kindred vices, Alfred was seeking wisdom from its true source; his life was an embodiment of temperance, soberness, and chastity. Many of his renderings of the Roman philosopher Boethius, whose work, De Consolatione Philosophiæ, he translated, or rather paraphrased, display his own sentiments on such matters. In transmitting them, he has transmitted himself. In some cases the thoughts of his author are widely expanded. His description, for instance, of the golden age: ‘Oh! how happy was the first age of this world, when every man thought he had enough in the fruits of the earth. There were no rich homes, nor various sweet dainties, nor drinks. They required no expensive garments, because there were none then; they saw no such things nor heard of them. They cared not for luxury; but they lived naturally and temperately. They always ate but once a day, and that was in the evening. They ate the fruits of trees and herbs. They drank no pure wine. They knew not to mix liquor with their honey. They required not silken clothing with varied colours. They always slept out under the shade of trees. The water of the clear spring they drank.’ Such is the[Pg 32] paraphrase of the king. The following is the language of Boethius:—‘Too happy was the prior age, contented with their faithful ploughs, nor lost in sluggish luxury; it was accustomed to end its late fasts with the ready acorn; nor knew how to confuse the present of Bacchus with liquid honey; nor to mingle the bright fleece of the Seres with the Tyrian poison. The grass gave them healthful slumbers. The gliding river their drink.’

One more example may be given; the passage which treats of tyrannical kings: ‘If men should divest them of their clothes, and withdraw from them their retinue and their power, then might thou see that they be very like some of their thegns that serve them, except that they be worse. And if it was now to happen to them, that their retinue was for a while taken away, and their dress and their power, they would think that they were brought into a prison, or were in bondage; because from their excessive and unreasonable apparel, from their sweetmeats, and from the various drinks of their cup, the raging course of their luxury is excited, and would very powerfully torment their minds.’

What other king would thus have caricatured his own order? What other man would have treated his own surroundings with such persiflage? Surely here he must have blindly adhered to the text of his author. Is it so? The English of Boethius is, ‘If from the proud kings whom you see sitting on the lofty summit of the throne ... any one should draw aside the coverings of a vain dress, you would see the lord loaded with strong chains within. For here greedy lust pours venom on their hearts; here turbid anger, raising its waves, lashes the mind; or sorrow wearies her captives[Pg 33], or deceitful hope torments them.’

And yet the life of Alfred, so full of achievement as well as purpose, was brought to a premature close. He died at the age of fifty-two. The disease which had clung to him in boyhood was replaced in manhood by another, equally grievous. The protracted banquets, ‘day and night,’ of his nuptial festivities are assigned as the probable cause. His biographer, Asser, remarks:—‘His nuptials were honourably celebrated in Mercia, among innumerable multitudes of people of both sexes; and after continual feasts, both by night and by day, he was immediately seized, in presence of all the people, by sudden and overwhelming pain, as yet unknown to all the physicians.’ We further learn that this complaint attached to him for more than twenty years. If this historian intends that the king’s malady was the result of debauchery, the whole tenor of his life is a flat contradiction. The panegyric of the poet Thomson in his Seasons is unimpeachable:—

Whose hallow’d name the virtues saint,
And his own Muses love; the best of kings!

Allusion has been made to native vineyards. The vine is mentioned in the laws of Alfred, ‘Si quis damnum intulerit vineæ vel agro, vel alicui ejus terræ, compenset sicut ejus illud æstimet’ (cap. xxvi.). In the Saxon Calendar there is a set of drawings illustrating the various employments and pastimes of the year; the one attached to the month of February gives some men pruning trees, vines apparently among them. However, this proves little, for the cuts appended to the months for gathering in the vintage represent scenes of hawkings and boar-huntings; the labours of the husbandmen being evidently[Pg 34] subordinate. (A copy of this is inserted in Strutt’s Horda, vol. i. pl. xi.)

Something less than half a century from the death of Alfred brings us to the tragical end of King Edmund the Elder, for which unquestionably strong drink has to answer. Amidst much variety of statement on the part of the chroniclers, certain details seem fairly established. The day of the occurrence was the anniversary or Mass-day of St. Augustine (May 26), a day always observed among the Anglo-Saxons whose apostle he was. A banquet was held at which Leof, a noted outlaw, was present. While the cup was circulating the king observed the intruder. Heated with wine he started from his seat, seized the outlaw, and felled him to the ground. Leof grappled with the king, and with his concealed dagger stabbed his royal antagonist, a.d. 946. The event is said to have happened at Pukelechirche (Pucklechurch), in Gloucestershire, where was a palace of the Saxon kings.

Hard indeed it was for a king to escape such surroundings if even his disposition so prompted him. Of this the narrative of King Edwy affords abundant proof. On his coronation day, he retired from the revels of the banquet (linquens læta convivia), to his own apartments, much to the chagrin of the guests, who peremptorily sent to fetch him back. Dunstan and Cynesius were the agents employed. The king, probably loathing the drunkenness of a Saxon debauch, declined to return, upon which he was dragged by Dunstan from his seat to the hall of revelry. We may wonder that so distinguished an ecclesiastic should thus have urged the king to a scene of intemperance, but it is not wholly inconsistent with other details of his actions, of which the[Pg 35] following narrative will serve as an illustration. King Athelstan dined with his relative Ethelfleda. The royal providers came to see if all was ready and suitable. Having inspected all, they told her, ‘you have plenty of everything, provided your mead holds out.’ The king came with numerous attendants. In the first salutation the mead ran short. Dunstan’s sagacity had foreseen the event, and provided against it. Though the cupbearers, as is the custom at royal feasts, were all the day serving it up in cut horns and other vessels, the liquor held out. This delighted the king, and much credit redounded to Dunstan (Turn. A. S., lib. vii. c. iii. who cites MS. Cott. Cleop. B. 13).

But the very name of Dunstan at once conveys us to the arcana of Monachism, and to the consideration of some of its alleged vices. Our business is to confine ourselves to the aspersions cast upon it on the score of intemperance. Two cautions are here necessary. First, in estimating the morality of the monks, it must be remembered that in the tenth century the monastic system had acquired a vast development, some of the monasteries containing several hundred inmates, many of whom were laymen. To these latter the intemperance is attributed by some Roman Catholic writers, whilst others do not hesitate to charge the monastic orders with excesses. In the next place it was the interest of Dunstan and his party to expose the irregularities of the secular priests, whom he hated as much as he despised, and whose ejection he compassed to make room for the regular monks, his pets. The harangue of King Edgar to the council convened by Dunstan may be taken as the saint’s indictment of the clergy, of whom the king says:—‘They spend their days in diversions[Pg 36], entertainments, drunkenness, and debauchery. Their houses may be said to be so many sinks of lewdness. There they pass the night in rioting and drunkenness.’[26]

Verily, King Edgar nearly anticipated by a thousand years the legislation proposed by the United Kingdom Alliance. Strutt says of him that, by the advice of Dunstan, he put down many ale-houses, suffering only one to exist in a village or small town; and he also further ordained that pins or nails should be fastened into the drinking-cups or horns, at stated distances, so that whosoever should drink beyond these marks at one draught should be liable to a severe punishment.[27] We shall have occasion to notice, when discussing the canons of Anselm, how this very pin-drinking, devised as a prohibitive measure, became a source of drunkenness.

Bad as was Edgar in some respects, we must clear him from a charge preferred against him by Palgrave, and to some extent by Lappenberg—that the vices of the foreigners who were incorporating themselves received encouragement from the king. Whatever countenance he gave to the Danes, it was not through them that the English became drunkards; that vice they had been already schooled in, and independently. The imputation, however, of these modern writers is readily [Pg 37]traceable to the chronicles of Henry of Huntingdon and William of Malmesbury.

The Church certainly in this reign vied with the throne in checking intemperance. Thus the following canons occur in a code drawn up by Dunstan:—

(26) ‘Let no drinking be allowed in the Church.’

(28) ‘Let men be very temperate at Church-wakes, and pray earnestly, and suffer there no drinking or unseemliness.’

(57) ‘Let Priests beware of drunkenness, and be diligent in warning and correcting others in this matter.’

(58) ‘Let no Priest be an ale-scop, nor in any wise act the gleeman.’

In some penitential canons which Mr. Johnson assigns to Archbishop Dunstan, with the date a.d. 963, occur in canon vi. the words, “I confess Intemperance in eating and drinking, early and late.”

The following injunctions occur in Elfric’s canons:—

(29) ‘Let no Priest sottishly drink to Intemperance, nor force others so to do, for he should be always in readiness if a child is to be baptized, or a man to be houseled. And if nothing of this should happen, yet he ought not to be drunk, for our Lord hath forbidden drunkenness to His ministers.’

(30) ‘Let no Priest drink at taverns as secular men do.’

(35) ‘Nor ought men to drink or eat intemperately in God’s house, which is hallowed to this purpose, that the Body of God may be there eaten with faith. Yet men often act so absurdly as to sit up by night, and drink to madness within God’s house.’

But for them ‘twere better that they
In their beds lay,
Than that they God angered,
In that ghostly house.
Let him who will watch,
And honour God’s saints,
With stillness watch,
And make no noise,
But sing his prayers,
[Pg 38]As he best can;
And let him who will drink,
And idly make noise,
Drink at his home,
Not in the Lord’s house,
That he God dishonour not,
To his own punishment.[28]

Other enactments may be discovered by the curious, scattered about the pages of early synods, e.g. nunneries were not to be houses of gossiping and drunkenness, and beds of luxury, but of sober and pious livers. An injunction this, evidently necessary, for Fosbroke (British Monachism, p. 22) speaks of the nuns of Coldingham as using oratories for feasting, drinking, and gossiping. The same author introduces us to the austere rule, as followed by the Britons, of Pachomius, that singular institutor of the cenobitic life in Upper Egypt in the fourth century. Abstinence seems to have been in force; at any rate there was a clause forbidding wine and liquamen (probably cider or perry) out of the infirmary. The inmates were also prohibited taverns[29] when necessity called them abroad. On such occasions they were restricted to ‘consecrated’ places. We have already seen that taverns at this time were anything but respectable, so ordinary travellers rarely used them; hence the propriety of this inhibition.

The requirements of Fulgentius, the African anchorite and bishop, were less severe. Among regulations of diet we find: ‘To have no more meat, drink, or clothes, than the rule allowed.’ ‘Not to eat or drink but at stated times.’ ‘No one to take any meat or drink before [Pg 39]the abbot.’ The monastic rules of Dunstan were certainly laxer. The ordinary times for drinking were not too few, whilst special solemnities called for special refreshment. In the latter category we become acquainted with their caritates or charities—that is, cups of wine, to drink which the monks were summoned by sound of bell into the refectory, and which must have been rendered peculiarly palatable by their listening to the collation, which signified a reading of the lives of the fathers or devout books; from which edification late suppers have derived their name. These charities varied in their composition: sometimes they consisted of beer, sometimes a kind of honey compôte. Such indulgences or allowances of drink were also called misericord.

In the great monasteries the Poculum Caritatis was placed at the upper end of the refectory, on the abbot’s table. It was nothing more nor less than the old wassail-bowl, the latter word obtaining its name from the verbal formality adopted in health-drinking.’[30]

Enough has been said to correct the very common impression that the Benedictine orders were self-mortifying ascetics. Wealthy and learned, at times useful to souls as well as bodies, their virtues have often been overstated, whilst their vices no less frequently have been palliated or denied.

The canons of King Edgar’s reign furnish an almost complete epitome of the manners of the time. His twenty-eighth canon enjoined strict temperance at[Pg 40]

Church Wakes.

Much confusion has been displayed by various writers in treating of the origin and rationale of these observances. Sir H. Spelman saw in them such occasions of gross intemperance, that he derives the word ‘wake’ from a Saxon word meaning drunkenness. But the derivation is to be found in the fact that wake and watch are the same words. The feast obtained its name from the night spent in watching—waking. Mr. Bourne rightly remarks[31] that at the conversion of the Saxons by Augustine, the heathen Paganalia were continued among the converts, with certain regulations, by order of Gregory the Great. This pope enjoined that on the day of dedication, or the birthday of holy martyrs, whose relics are there placed, the people should make to themselves booths of the boughs of trees, round about those very churches which had been the temples of idols, and should observe a religious feast; that beasts be no longer sacrificed to the devil, but for eating, and for God’s glory; that when the people were satisfied, they should return thanks to the Giver of all good things.[32] Here is the origin of the wake. The abuse of the original solemnity followed in accordance with the moral law of gravitation. At first, all was decorum; the people assembled at the church on the vigil or evening before the saint’s day, with burning candles, where they [Pg 41]were wont devotionally to wake during the night. In process of time ‘the pepul fell to letcherie, and songs, and daunses, with harping and piping, and also to glotony and sinne; and so tourned the holyness to cursydness; wherefore holy faders ordeyned the pepull to leve that waking, and to fast the evyn. It is called vigilia—that is, waking in English—and eveyn, for of eveyn they were wont to come to churche.’[33] We shall find that in the reign of Edward III. Archbishop Thoresby adopted drastic measures to remedy such like abuses; whilst about the same time Chaucer, in his Ploughman’s Tales, censures the priests for caring more for pastimes than for their duty. He says they were expert

At the wrestlynge, and at the wake,
And chief chantours at the nale.[34]

The end of all this was that they were suppressed, and fairs were instituted on or near the saint’s day, to which the original name attaches in many villages.

Upon the whole, the action of King Edgar was favourable to the cause of temperance, and the perpetuation of his name on a tavern sign in the city of Chester, which, according to the legend, has existed ever since his time, could only be regarded as a piece of irony, were it not that it treasures the memory of the Saxon king being rowed down the Dee, as some report, by eight tributary kings.

An incident in the reign of Edward, the son and successor of Edgar, is especially worthy of note as introducing us to the origin of the custom called pledging in drinking. Strutt (Manners and Customs of the Ancient [Pg 42]Britons), who evidently accepts the opinion of William of Malmesbury, gives us the old form or ceremony of pledging, as follows:—The person who was going to drink asked the one of the company who sat next to him whether he would pledge him, on which he, answering that he would, held up his knife or sword to guard him whilst he drank; for while a man is drinking he necessarily is in an unguarded posture, exposed to the treacherous stroke of some secret enemy. Thus a pledge was a security for the safety of the person drinking. This is said to have dated from the death of King Edward (commonly called Edward the Martyr), a.d. 978, who was murdered by the treachery of his step-mother Elfrida. The motive for her act is well known. Of the two claimants to the throne, Edward and Ethelred, she had preferred the latter, her own son, to his elder half-brother, her stepson. The story is told very differently by the chroniclers Gaimer, William of Malmesbury, and others; but the general purport is that Edward, when out hunting, determined to visit Elfrida, who was living with her son Ethelred at Corfe Castle. The queen went out on his arrival, received him with hypocritical kindness, and pressed him to alight, which he declined. ‘Then drink while you are on horseback,’ said the queen. ‘Willingly,’ said the king, ‘but first you will drink to me.’ The butlers filled a horn of claret and handed it to her. She drank the half of the filled horn, and then handed it to the king. While he was eagerly drinking from the cup presented, the dagger of an attendant pierced him through. Dropping the cup, he spurred his horse and fled. Soon he fainted through loss of blood, and fell from his saddle. His feet hung in the stirrups, by which he was dragged till life [Pg 43]was extinct. It is only right to state that Mr. Brand (Popular Antiquities) takes a different view of the meaning of pledging. He imagines the phrase ‘I pledge myself’ to mean simply ‘I follow your example.’ But while most writers refer the custom to the Saxon incident of Edward’s death, Dr. Henry, in his History of Great Britain, refers the custom to the fear of the Danes; while Francis Wise, in his Further Observations upon the White Horse, with eclectic caution remarks: ‘The custom of pledging healths, still prevalent among Englishmen, is said to be owing to the Saxons’ mutual regard for each other’s safety, and as a caution against the treacherous inhospitality of the Danes when they came to live in peace with the natives.’


[Pg 44]

[26] The whole harangue may be found in Rapin’s History of England, vol. i. p. 108 (2nd ed. 1732).

[27] W. of Malmesbury (§ 149) quaintly adds as the reason for the gold or silver pegs:—‘That whilst every man knew his just measure, shame should compel each neither to take more himself, nor oblige others to drink beyond their own proper share.’

Compare some lines to be found in Holborn Drollery, 1673—

‘Edgar, away with pins i’ th’ cup
To spoil our drinking whole ones up.’

Cf. also the account of these tankards in Pegge’s Anonymiana, 1809.

[28] This last metrical passage is added by Thorpe (Ancient Laws and Institutes, vol. ii. p. 356). Sir H. Spelman gave it up as irrecoverable. His words are ‘reliqua abscidit nequam aliquis plagiarius.’ See Johnson’s Collection of Laws and Canons, sub-canon 35 of Elfric.

[29] A like prohibition occurs in Apost. Can., 46.

[30] The explanation given by Selden in a note on Drayton’s Polyolbion, song 9, is perhaps as good as any. He says:—‘I see a custome in some parts among us. I mean the yearly Was-haile in the country on the vigil of the new yeare, which I conjecture was a usuall ceremony among the Saxons before Hengist, as a note of health-wishing.’

[31] Antiquitates Vulgares.

[32] The copy of this letter, which Gregory sent to the Abbot Mellitus (a.d. 601), will be found in Bede, Eccles. Hist., lib. i. ch. xxx. It is not to be supposed that Pope Gregory originated such an ordinance. Festivals or dedications, called encænia, were well known to the early Church, e.g. Sozomen (ii. 26) gives an account of the dedication festival in memory of Constantine’s Church at Jerusalem. Cf. also Hospinianus: De festis Christianorum, p. 113.

[33] Homily for the vigil of St. John Baptist. Harl. MS.

[34] i.e. ale-house.



It was at the close of this tenth century that the Danes made their determined resolve to invade this kingdom. Here again we shall see how closely the destinies of our country have been associated with strong drink and its surroundings. It was at a riotous banquet that Sweyne vowed to kill or expel King Ethelred. The mode in which a Scandinavian heir took possession of his heritage was this: he gave a banquet, at which he drank to the memory of the deceased, and then seated himself in the daïs which the previous master of the house always occupied. In conformity with this usage, Sweyne gave a succession banquet. On the first day of the feast he filled a horn and drank to his father’s memory, making at the same time a solemn vow that before three winters had passed he would sail with a large army to England, and either murder Ethelred or drive him out of the country. After all the guests had drunk to King Harold’s memory, the horns were again filled and emptied in honour of Christ. The third toast was given to Michael the Archangel, and so on. There is much in this to shock, and still more when we know that this custom was perpetuated. But Mr. Mallet (Northern Antiquities, p. 113), speaking of one of the religious ceremonies of the North, says: ‘They drank immoderately; the kings and chief lords drank first, healths in honour of the gods; every one drank afterwards, making some vow or prayer to the god whom he named.’ Hence came that[Pg 45] custom among the first Christians in Germany and the North, of drinking to the health of our Saviour, the Apostles, and the Saints: a custom which the Church was often obliged to tolerate.

May we infer that retributive justice was at work, and found its expression in the vow of Sweyne? The character of Ethelred transpires in the official message sent by the Danish settler Turkill (called also Turketul), to Sweyne, inviting him to England. In this he lures him by describing the country as rich and fertile, the king a driveller, wholly given up to wine, &c., hateful to his own people, and contemptible to foreigners.

Under such a king we cannot wonder at the Danes landing and plundering at will. Nor are we surprised, knowing their character for excesses, that the Danes should have acted as they did with barbarous atrocity to one of the holiest saints whose name adorns the pages of the Roman martyrology. St. Elphege had for some few years been transferred from the see of Winchester to the primacy. The Danes took Canterbury by storm, and massacred the inhabitants, in spite of the earnest protests of the archbishop. Nor did their vengeance spare the mediator; after brutally ill-treating him they confined him in irons in a filthy dungeon. After the lapse of several months they offered him freedom upon the payment of a ransom. This he stoutly refused, predicting at the same time the downfall of their usurpation. Thereupon the Danish chiefs, drunken with wine from the South, hurled at their victim stones, bones, and the skulls of oxen, and felled him to the earth with the back of their battle-axes. One of his converts mercifully released him from his misery on the 19th of April, 1012. The parish church of Greenw[Pg 46]ich, named in his honour, marks the site of his martyrdom.[35]

But the deeds of blood with which drink is connected, and which signalise this reign, are not yet all told. Two of the noblest thanes of the Danish burghs were accused of treachery to the king, at a grand political congress held at Oxford in the year 1015. In the banquet chamber, when, as Malmesbury states, they were drunk to excess, they were slain by attendants prepared for the purpose, with the assent of Ethelred. The horrible massacre of the Danes by this king in 1002 is commonly thought to have originated the holiday known as Hoke-day or Hock-day. This is a mistake, as will be shown in treating of this festivity in connection with the death of Hardicanute.

Not only did strong drink minister to the conviviality of the time, but it is evident that then, as ever, virtue was conceived to attach to its use. The medical knowledge of the time was almost confined to superstitious recipes; and in these ale was often an ingredient, as was wine. For the cure of sore eyes a paste of strawberry plants and pepper was prescribed, to be diluted for use in sweet wine.[36] Again, patients, while sitting in a medicated bath, were to drink a decoction of betony and other herbs, which were to be boiled in Welsh ale. To betony were ascribed extraordinary virtues. Its fresh flowers are said to have an intoxicating effect. Ale also formed an ingredient in religious charms, e.g. ‘Take thrift-grass, yarrow, elehtre, betony, penny-grass, carruc, fane, fennel, [Pg 47]church-wort, Christmas-wort, lovage; make them into a potion with clear ale, sing seven masses over the plants daily,’ &c. This was a recipe for a person labouring under a disease caused by evil spirits, and was to be administered in a church bell.

Ethelred’s life scarcely harmonised with his laws. In the year 1008, it is ordered, among other monitions, that diabolic deeds be shunned, ‘in gluttony and drunkenness.’ Again, at the council of Enham, the 28th ordinance cautions to the same effect. The Church also spoke out boldly. Thus, in the 13th injunction of Theodulf’s Capitula, we read, ‘It very greatly concerns every mass-priest to guard himself against drunkenness; and that he teach this to the people subject to him. Mass-priests ought not to eat or drink at ale-houses.’ One piece of the then legislation is worthy of attention to-day; an ale-house was regarded as a privileged spot; quarrels that arose there were more severely punished than elsewhere.[37]

Whether or no the custom of pledging in drinking, to which reference has already been made, originated in consequence of the treacherous murder of Edward, certain it is that the usage owed its revival and perpetuation to the perfidious inhospitality of the Danes when they gained a footing in England. Shakespeare alludes to their dastardly practice of stabbing the English while drinking, when he makes Apemantus say:—

‘If I
Were a huge man, I should fear to drink at meals,
Lest they should spy my windpipe’s dangerous notes:
Great men should drink with harness on their throats.’[38]

[Pg 48]

So haughty were the Danes at first that they would not brook the English drinking in their presence unless invited; indeed, they are said to have punished such an act of supposed discourtesy with death. No wonder, then, that our people would not venture to lift the cup until the Danes had guaranteed their safety by a pledge.

The absurd custom of toasting received from the Danes a mighty impulse. The drinking of healths was an important element in their civil and religious banquets. After their conversion to Christianity, the toast of the saints took the place of that of their gods Odin and Thor. Thus, to take an example from the life of St. Wenceslaus, ‘Taking the cup, he says with a loud voice, “Let us drink this in the name of the holy Archangel Michael, begging and praying him to introduce our souls into the peace of eternal exaltation.”’[39] St. Olave, to whom they owed their conversion, was another favourite toast. St. John the Baptist was also thus commemorated. The old expressions, Drink-heil, Was-heil, had given place to Pril-wril,[40] the precursors of the more modern hob-nob, a term which now is used to denote close and familiar friendship, but which once under the form of ‘habbe or nabbe’ denoted ‘have or have not,’ and then became narrowed in meaning to the convivial question whether a person will have a glass to drink, or not, and so passed to its present intention.[41]

The chronicler, John Brompton, is right in saying, ‘by nature the Danes are mighty drinkers,’ but he errs like the rest of them in saying that they left that quality as [Pg 49]a perpetual inheritance to the English. The Saxons had already done this. And it is a question whether in this respect the Danes did not learn quite as much as they taught. Iago was probably right in his dialogue with Cassio, ‘Your Dane, your German, and your swag-bellied Hollander, drink, oh! are nothing to your English.’[42] At any rate, the Danish kings adopted the Saxon drinks—ale, cider, mead, wine, morat, and pigment, and half the Danish dynasty adopted them to their ruin.

The tragical end of Hardicanute is characteristic of the age in which he lived, and was in keeping with his life. A wedding-feast was given at Lamhithe (Lambeth) by Osgod Clapa, a great lord, in celebration of the marriage of his daughter Githa with Tovi Pruda, a Danish nobleman; when, according to the Saxon Chronicle, the king Harthacnut, as he stood at his drink, suddenly fell to the earth with a terrible convulsion ... and after that spake not one word. Others add that he fell in the act of pledging the company in a huge bumper.[43] Smollett attributes his immediate end to over-eating at this banquet, at the same time asserting that he was particularly addicted to feasting and drinking, which he indulged to abominable excess. To the same effect, Rapin writes: ‘All historians unanimously agree, he spent whole days and nights in feasting and carousing.’

We cannot leave this short-reigned votary of the cup without noticing the celebrated antiquarian hoax played upon Richard Gough, the famous English antiquary of the last century, by the fabrication of an inscription [Pg 50]purporting to record the death of the Saxon king, Hardicanute. Steevens, as an act of revenge, obtained the fragment of a chimney slab, and scratched upon it the inscription in Anglo-Saxon letters, of which all I can make is, ‘Here Hardnut cyning gedronge vin hyrn’—i.e. ‘here Harthcanute, king, drank wine horn,’ &c.[44]

It was alleged to have been discovered in Kennington Lane, where the palace of the monarch was said to be situated, and the fatal drinking bout to have taken place. Gough fell into the trap, exhibited the curiosity to the Society of Antiquaries; Mr. Pegge, F.S.A., wrote a paper on it; the society’s draughtsman, Schnebbelie, drew the inscription, and it was engraved in the Gentleman’s Magazine.

A curious festival is said to commemorate King Hardicanute’s death. John Rouse relates that the anniversary of it was kept by the English as a holiday in his time, four hundred years afterwards, and was called


This festival in its various intentions is found variously described as hoke-day, hock-tide, hob-tide, hog’s-tide, hawkey, hockey, horkey. As numerous as its names are the derivations suggested for them. Thus, Dr. J. Nott, in a note to Herrick’s Ode, The Hock-Cart, speaks of Hock-tide or Heag-tide as signifying high-tide, the height of merriment (from heag or heah, high). Bryant (cited in Nares’ Glossary) derives it from the German hoch, high. Fosbroke (Encyc. Antiq.) speaks of the hocking on St. Blaze’s Day (Feb. 3) as taken from the women who were[Pg 51] torn by hokes and crotchets mentioned in his legend. Verstegan (Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, 1634) derives Hoc-tide from Heughtyde, which, he says, means in the Netherlands a festival season. Sir H. Spelman derives it from the German hocken, to put in heaps: a derivation which would well suit the application of the term to a harvest festival, as would the German hocke, a heap of sheaves. But surely S. D. Denne is right (Hist. Particulars of Lambeth) in deriving it from hochzeit, wedding. As it was at the celebration of the feast at the wedding of a Danish lord Canute Pruden with Lady Pitha that Hardicanute died suddenly, our ancestors had certainly sufficient grounds for distinguishing the day of so happy an event by a word denoting the wedding-feast, the wedding-day, the wedding Tuesday. And if the justness of this conjecture shall be allowed, may not the reason be discovered why the women bore rule on this celebrity, for all will admit that at a wedding the bride is the queen of the day.

If we refer the original of this festival to the eleventh century, two occasions present themselves as claimants for the honour. The first is the massacre of the Danes under Ethelred, 1002. The old Coventry play of Hock-Tuesday points to this date. This play, which was performed before Queen Elizabeth in 1575, represented a series of skirmishes between the English and Danes, in which the latter, after two victories, were overcome, and many led captive in triumph by the women. This play the men of Coventry explained to be grounded on story, and to be an old-established pageant. The custom may, at any rate, be traced back to the thirteenth century. Two objections are lodged against the reference of the festival to this occurrence. In the first place it do[Pg 52]es seem a valid objection that a holiday could never have been instituted to commemorate an event which afforded matter rather for humiliation than for mirth and festivity. The measure was unwise as it was inhuman, for Sweyn terribly retaliated the next year, and inflicted upon the country unparalleled misery and oppression. The second objection is that of Henry of Huntingdon, who thinks the dates cannot be made to fit, the massacre of the Danes being on St. Brice’s Day (Nov. 13), and the death of Hardicanute June 8. But this difficulty would be removed if we accepted the statement of Milner (Hist. Winchester), that by an order of Ethelred, the sports were transferred from November to the Monday in the third week after Easter. And here the question opens as to the day of the week upon which the feast was celebrated. Dr. Plot (Hist. Oxon.) makes Monday the principal day; on the other hand Tuesday is of general acceptance: hence the special designations, Hock-Tuesday, Binding-Tuesday. The fact is, that the Monday was the vigil of the festival, and soon came to be kept in common with the festival.

In Ellis’s edition of Brand’s Popular Antiquities will be found a number of financial extracts of ancient records referring to this feast—e.g. in the parish registers of St. Lawrence, Reading, in the year 1499, we find recorded:—

‘Item, received of Hock money gaderyd of women, xxs.

‘Item, received of Hok money gaderyd of men, iiijs.’

In the St. Giles’s parish register, under date 1535: ‘Hoc money gat[Pg 53]heryd by the wyves, xiijs. ixd.’

In the register of St. Mary’s parish, 1559: ‘Hoctyde money, the men’s gathering, iijs. The women’s, xijs.’

These hoc-tydes came to be scenes of revelry and excess, causing their inhibition, in 1450, by the Bishop of Worcester. This would simply apply to his own diocese. They were still apparently in vogue in the seventeenth century; thus Wyther[45]:—

Because that once a yeare
They can affoord the poore some slender cheere,
Observe their country feasts or common doles,
And entertain their Christmass wassaile boles,
Or els because that, for the Churche’s good,
They in defence of Hock-tide custome stood,
A Whitsun-ale or some such goodly motion, &c.

The custom has now long been abolished.

One feature of the social life of the Saxons is especially interesting, in which we see the precursor of the modern club. Voluntary associations, or sodalitates, were frequently formed, the objects of which were variously, protection, conviviality, and relief, both for soul and body. Turner mentions a gild-scipe (guild-ship) at Exeter, which purported to have been made for God’s love and their soul’s need. The meetings were three times a year, besides the holy-days after Easter. Every member was to bring a certain quantity of malt, and every cniht was to add a less quantity and some honey. The fines of their own imposition imply that the materials of conviviality were not forgotten.[46]

Historians are for once unanimous in depicting the general character of the Anglo-Saxons. Perhaps none have painted it in blacker colours than Niebuhr. England, he says, at the time of the Conquest was not only [Pg 54]effete with the drunkenness of crime, but with the crime of drunkenness. The soldiery, as was natural, shared in the general demoralisation. They laboured under a greater deficiency than any which can result from the want of weapons or of armour. Stout, well-fed, and hale, the Anglo-Saxon when sober was fully a match for any adversary who might be brought from the banks of the Seine or the Loire. But they were addicted to debauchery, and the wine-cup unnerves the stoutest arm.[47] These were the troops who fortified themselves for the fatal battle of Hastings with strong drink, and whose cries of revelry resounded throughout the night. In the quaint language of Fuller, ‘The English, being revelling before, had in the morning their brains arrested for the arrearages of the indigested fumes of the former night, and were no better than drunk when they came to fight.’[48]


[Pg 55]

[35] The life of St. Elphege may be found in Wharton’s Anglia Sacra, vol. ii., and a brief account of him in Butler’s Lives of the Saints, sub. April 19. An engraving of the saint is given in the Calendar of the Prayer Book Illustrated, taken from an effigy in Wells Cathedral.

[36] MS. Reg. 12, D. xvii., fol. 13-20. Cf. Wright, Biog. Britann. Liter., p. 98, &c.

[37] Hume: Hist. Eng., vol. i. 123.

[38] Timon of Athens, act i. sc. 2.

[39] Some interesting information on this head may be found in an article in Du Cange’s Glossarium ad Script. Lat., sub ‘Bibere in amore Sanctorum.’

[40] Cf. Fosbroke, British Monachism, who cites MS. Cott. Tiber, B. 13.

[41] Several examples are given in the article in Nares’ Glossary, edited by the distinguished antiquaries J. O. Halliwell-Phillips, Esq., and the late Mr. Thomas Wright.

[42] Shakespeare, Othello, act ii. scene 3.

[43] See Cotton MSS., Tib., b. i. and Tib., b. iv. Allen, Hist. of Lambeth Chronicle of Florence of Worcester.

[44] Another interpretation is given in Book of Days, sub., Dec. 13. See engraving in Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. lx. 1790, pt. 3, p. 217.

[45] Abuses Stript and Whipt, 1618.

[46] Anglo-Saxons, lib. vii. ch. x.

[47] Palgrave: Hist. of Anglo-Saxons, ch. xiv.

[48] Fuller: Church Hist. of Britain, lib. iii. § 1. The indictment is endorsed by Mr. Freeman upon the authority of William of Malmesbury: ‘The English spent the night in drinking and singing, the Normans in prayer and confession of their sins’—Norman Conquest of England, iii. 241.



We have now arrived at a period which introduces a new element in the formation of our national social life. Information respecting the habits of the Normans is derivable not only from the chroniclers and historians of the period, but from illuminated manuscripts, Anglo-Norman fabliaux, the Bayeux tapestry, wood and other carvings in sacred edifices, and even from chessmen.[49]

The Norman historians insist that their countrymen introduced greater sobriety, and are ever contrasting their own morality with that of the Saxons to the disparagement of the latter. William of Malmesbury speaks of the Saxon nobility as given up to luxury and wantonness: ‘Drinking in parties was a universal practice, in which occupation they passed entire nights as well as days. The vices attendant on drunkenness, which enervate the human mind, followed; hence it arose that when they engaged William, more with rashness and precipitate fury than military skill, they doomed themselves and their country to slavery, by one, and that an easy, victory.’[50] Some of our later writers, making little allowance for the national bias of Norman historians, have even intensified this contrast. Thus, a modern gleaner of English literature ventures to assert that the brutal intemperance to which the Saxon was so prone, [Pg 56]the Norman was free from. But scenes and incidents which are ready to hand from Norman history must lead us to modify such an opinion, or at any rate compel the acknowledgment that the Normans very soon accommodated themselves to the luxurious habits of the English.[51] Among the many conspiracies formed in the reign of the first William, one at least was organised and developed amidst the surroundings of excess, which cost one of its noble projectors his life. The king had refused to give his consent to the alliance by marriage of the noble houses of Norfolk and Hereford. Opportunity was taken of the king’s absence from the country to cement the union. A splendid banquet marked the event. Among the many distinguished guests was Earl Waltheof. Norfolk and Hereford, fearing the anger of the king at their disobedience, formed a scheme to depose him, and communicated the same to their guests as soon as they saw them heated with wine. Waltheof, who had well drunk, readily entered into the conspiracy; but on the morrow, when the fumes of the drink were dispersed, he repented his rash precipitation. Betaking himself to Lanfranc he confessed all—he urged in extenuation that his intemperance on the occasion had prevented due reflection, and craved his mediation. All was of no avail; he was apprehended and publicly beheaded. Thus fell another of the long roll of victims to drink.

A scene in lower life is depicted in the life of Hereward. The hero in disguise is taken into King William’s kitchen to entertain the cooks. After dinner the wine and ale were freely distributed, and the result was a[Pg 57] violent quarrel between the cooks and Hereward; the former used the tridents and forks for weapons, while he took the spit from the fire as a still more formidable weapon of defence.[52] On another occasion, when Hereward secretly returned to his paternal home, which had been taken possession of by a Norman intruder, he was aroused in the middle of the night by sounds of boisterous revelry and merriment. Stealthily approaching, he saw the new lord of Brunne with his knights overcome by deep potations, and enjoying the coarse songs and brutal jests of a wandering minstrel.

An anecdote producing the same kind of impression is told of Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester. In the time of the Conqueror he was obliged to retain a large retinue of men-at-arms through fear of the Danes. He would not dine in private, but sat in his public hall with his boisterous soldiers; and while they were drinking for hours together at dinner, he would keep them company to restrain them by his presence, pledging them, when it came to his turn, in a tiny cup which he pretended to taste, and in the midst of the din ruminating to himself on the Psalms.[53]

The illuminated manuscripts of the period abound with illustrations of banquets, cupbearers, servants in cellars, &c., that suggest that the life then was not more than either meat or drink. Rightly did John of Salisbury remark that William would have deserved more renown had he rather promulgated laws of temperance to a nation which he would not have subdued by arms had it not already been conquered by excess of luxury.[54]

[Pg 58]

As late as the year 1070 we are reminded of the intemperate propensity of the Danes. During that year Sweyn visited this country. According to the Saxon Chronicle they rifled the minster of Peterborough, put out to sea with the spoil, and were arrested by a storm which scattered their ships in all directions. Some of the spoil, it appears, was brought back for safety, and placed in the identical church. Then afterwards, continues the Chronicle, ‘through their carelessness and through their drunkenness, on a certain night the church and all that was within it was consumed with fire. Thus was the minster of Peterborough burnt and harried.’

We have already enumerated the drinks adopted by the Saxons and the Danes. They were principally ale, wine, mead, cider, morat, and pigment. To these their Norman successors added clarré, garhiofilac, and hippocras. Wine was perhaps more used than formerly, being chiefly imported from France; but ale and mead were the common drinks. The innumerable entries in Domesday Book show how large a proportion of the productions of the country at this time consisted in honey, which was used chiefly for the manufacture of mead.

New plantations of vines seem to have been made about the time of the Conquest, e.g. in the village of Westminster, at Chenetone in Middlesex, Ware in Hertfordshire, Hanten in Worcestershire. They are measured by arpents (arpenni). Holeburne had its vineyard, which came into the possession of the Bishops of Ely, and subsequently gave its name to a street which still exists. In Domesday Book (1086), among the[Pg 59] lands of Suein in Essex, is an entry respecting an enclosure of six arpents, which in good seasons (si bene procedit) yielded twenty modii of wine.

Vineyards were attached to the greater abbeys, especially in the south. This is easily accountable: (1) The situation was in well sheltered valleys, (2) Many of the monks were foreigners, and would know the best modes of culture. Canterbury Church and St. Augustine’s Abbey had vineyards; so had Colton, St. Martin’s, Chertham, Brook, Hollingburn, and Halling, also Santlac near Battle, and Windsor.

William of Malmesbury, speaking of the fertility of the Vale of Gloucester, and the spontaneous growth of apple-trees, adds that vineyards were more abundant there (vinearum frequentia densior) than in any other district of England, the crops more abundant, and the flavour superior. Moreover, the wines were very little behind those of France. Mr. Barrington is clearly in error (Archæol. iii. p. 77) in imagining that Malmesbury intends orchards and cider, not vineyards and vines. Surely he would have used the terms then in use for these—viz. pomeria and poma. Indeed, in another passage, Malmesbury, speaking of Thorney in the Isle of Ely, says it was studded on the one side with apple-trees, on the other covered with vines, which either trail or are supported on poles. Knight remarks that this question of the ancient growth of the vine in England was the subject of a regular antiquarian passage-at-arms in 1771, when the Hon. Daines Barrington entered the lists to overthrow all the chroniclers and antiquaries from Malmesbury to Pegge, and to prove that English grapes were currants and that the vineyards of Domesday Book were nothing but gardens. The Antiquarian[Pg 60] Society inscribed the paper pellets shot on the occasion as The Vineyard Controversy.

Speaking of the Windsor vines, William Lambarde says that tithe of them was yielded in great plenty, ‘accompts have been made of the charges of planting the vines that grew in the little park, as also of making the wines, whereof some parts were spent in the household and some sold for the king’s profit.’

The list of religious houses to which vineyards, and in many cases orchards likewise, were attached might be indefinitely extended. There is a record of a vineyard at St. Edmundsbury. The Saxon Chronicle states that Martin, Abbot of Peterborough, planted another. William Thorn, the monastic chronicler, writes that in his abbey of Nordhome the vineyard was profitable and famous. But notwithstanding all this, vine cultivation in this country could never commercially compete with France; and wine would have been to the mass of the people an unattainable luxury, had not the ports of Southampton and Sandwich been open to foreign exports.

A glance at the occupations of the servants will afford some idea of the monastic life of the period; e.g. in the time of William Rufus, the servants at Evesham numbered five in the church, two in the infirmary, two in the cellar, five in the kitchen, seven in the bakehouse, four brewers, four menders, two in the bath, two shoe-makers, two in the orchard, three gardeners, one at the cloister gate, two at the great gate, five at the vineyard, four who served the monks when they went out, four fishermen, four in the abbot’s chamber, three in the hall.[55]

[Pg 61]

The name of the second William is one of the blots on our regal history. He possessed, as is believed, his father’s vices without his virtues. Rapin observes that William I. balanced his faults by a religious outside, a great chastity, and a commendable temperance, but that his son was neither religious, nor chaste, nor temperate; whilst Malmesbury tells that he met with his tragical end in the New Forest after he had soothed his cares with a more than usual quantity of wine. In his reign excess and sensuality prevailed amongst the nobility as everywhere, unchecked and well-nigh unrebuked; the voice even of the Primate being stifled for the moment in the general profligacy, for, failing of the co-operation of his suffragans, he quitted the kingdom, powerless to cope with the depravity of the times.

An earnest desire on the part of Henry to curry favour and popularity with the people was the cause of the recall of the archbishop from his retirement at Lyons. His efforts after a reformation of manners were at once renewed. Among the canons of Anselm, decreed at Westminster 1102, appears the following:—‘That priests go not to drinking bouts, nor drink to pegs (ad pinnas).’[56] It will be remembered that Archbishop Dunstan had ordained that pins or nails should be fastened into the drinking-cups at stated distances, to prevent persons drinking beyond these marks. This well intended provision had been terribly perverted, and the pegs intended for the restriction of potations became the provocatives of challenges to drink, and thus the instruments of intemperance. This abuse, at first an occasional sport, developed into a custom, and was called [Pg 62]pin-drinking or pin-nicking, and to it we owe the common slang, ‘He is in a merry pin.’ The cups thus marked with pins, usually called peg-tankards, held two quarts. Inside was a row of eight pegs, one above the other from top to bottom; thus was there half a pint between each peg. Each person in turn drank a peg-measure; thus, while the capabilities of the persons drinking were variable, the draughts were a fixed quantity, so this inevitably gave rise to intemperance, more especially as the tankards were renewed ad libitum.

The asceticism of Anselm met with the usual opposition. One of Queen Matilda’s letters to the Primate contained a strong effort to dissuade him from such a habit. She urged the comfortable advice to Timothy, besides quoting Greek and Roman philosophers. Nor would his views be palatable to many of the clergy, who in this respect fell under the impeachment of the chroniclers, whilst even the high places of the Church were open to animadversion. The story is told of Ralph Flambard, Bishop of Durham, that when lodged in the White Tower he freed himself by stratagem. He provided himself in prison with stores of wine. Among the casks sent in was one which a confederate had filled, not with wine, but with a coil of rope. The gaolers he plied with drink, till overcome by it they left him free to act. Thus did the Bishop make his escape.

From incidental notices we gather that strong drink was used in profusion. Thus in the king’s progresses, when too often wholesale spoliation marked the action of his retinue, we read of his followers burning provisions, washing their horses’ feet with the ale or mead, pouring the drink on the ground, or otherwise wasting it.

[Pg 63]

The tragedy of the reign was the loss of the ‘Blanche Nef.’ King Henry and his heir, Prince William, embarked at Harfleur for England on the same night in separate vessels. The prince, to make the passage agreeable, took with him a number of the young nobility. All was mirth and joviality. The prince ordered three casks of wine to be given to the ship’s crew. The mariners were in consequence many of them intoxicated when they put out to sea at nightfall. It was the great desire of the prince to overtake his father, who had sailed considerably earlier, and this emulation was one of the causes of the disaster. The vessel, which was sailing dangerously fast, struck upon a rock and began to sink. The prince would, however, have been saved in a boat that was lowered, but, putting back in response to the cries of his half-sister, the boat sunk beneath the load of the numbers who tried to avail themselves of its succour. Of some three hundred passengers aboard the White Ship, only one escaped to tell the mournful tale. The king, it is said, was never after seen to laugh, though he survived the dismal wreck about fifteen years. Personally, he was a man of strictly regular habits. Never was he known to be guilty of any excess in eating or drinking, except that which cost him his life. A surfeit of lampreys is said to have hastened his end; but for this, all history endorses the testimony of the chronicler that he was plain in his diet, rather satisfying the calls of hunger than surfeiting himself by variety of delicacies. He never drank but to allay thirst, execrating the least departure from temperance both in himself and in those about him.

Allusions abound in this Norman period to convivial meetings o[Pg 64]f the middle and lower classes in inns or private houses. The miracles of St. Cuthbert, as related by Reginald of Durham, give an insight to their private life in the earlier part of the twelfth century. Thus, a parishioner of Kellow, near Durham, is described as passing the evening drinking with the parish priest. Returning home late he was pursued by dogs, and reaching his own house in terror, shut the door upon them. He then mounted to a garret window to look at his persecutors, when he was seized with madness, and his family being roused carried him into the court and bound him to the seats (sedilia). On another occasion, a youth and his monastic teacher are represented as going to a tavern, and passing the whole of the night in drinking, till one of them becomes intoxicated, and cannot be prevailed on to return home.

Hospitality in these troublous times was freely exercised. The monasteries had their open guest-houses; the burgesses in the towns were in the habit of receiving strangers as private lodgers, in addition to the accommodation afforded in the regular taverns (hospitia).

Sir Walter Scott would be ready to defend the clergy, as we found him shielding the Norman nobles from any such imputation. The dialogue in Ivanhoe will be remembered. ‘An’ please, your reverence,’ said Dennet, ‘a drunken priest came to visit the sacristan at St. Edmund’s.’ ‘It does not please my reverence,’ answered the Churchman, ‘that there should be such an animal as a drunken priest, or, if there were, that a layman should so speak of him. Be mannerly, my friend, and conclude the holy man only wrapped in meditation, which makes the head dizzy and foot unsteady, as if the stomach were filled with new wine. I have felt it myself.’

[Pg 65]

For reasons to be mentioned immediately, home vineyards were beginning to be less cultivated, though they were not by any means discontinued. William of Malmesbury tells of a vineyard attached to his monastery, which was first planted in the eleventh century by a Greek monk who settled there. The Exchequer Rolls contain a discharge of the sheriffs of Northampton and Leicester, in the fifth year of Stephen, for certain expenses incurred on account of the royal vineyard at Rockingham.

The acquisition of the Duchy of Guienne (1152) naturally led to an interchange of commodities between England and France. Wine traffic with Bordeaux was at once established; and from this time our statutes are laden with ordinances concerning the importation of French wine, most of which, in conformity to the mistaken notions of political economy in those times, fix the maximum of price for which they were to be sold.


[Pg 66]

[49] Mr. Samuelson (History of Drink) observes that on the chessmen of the twelfth century the queen usually carries a drinking-horn.

[50] Hist. Reg., § 245.

[51] Sir Walter Scott defends the character of the Norman nobles from the charge of intemperance. See Ivanhoe, p. 100.

[52] Wright, Homes of other Days, p. 100.

[53] Bridgett, Disc. of Drink, p. 102.

[54] De Nugis Curialium, lib. viii.

[55] Cutt’s Scenes and Characters of the Middle Ages.

[56] Canon ix. Cp. Johnson’s English Canons, pt. ii. p. 26. Wilkins, Concil. I. 382. Concil. Londinens. a.d. 1102, ap. Spelm. II. 24.



The period on which we now enter, called, in compliance with usage, the Plantagenet, might for our present purpose more strictly be named The Light Wine Period. And it is instructive; and might have served for instruction to certain of our legislators in the present reign, who first tried beer (houses) to put down spirit drinking, and then tried wine to put down spirits and beer. The facts of English history were disregarded, and these remedial expedients were adopted, in the light of which the irony of the Spartans pales, who to put down drunkenness made their slaves drunk, and then exhibited them as hideous examples.

We have seen that the traffic of wines with Bordeaux was brought about through the marriage of Henry II. with Eleanor of Aquitaine. That ‘great Provence dower,’ as Dante calls it, was the secret of the new trade with Guienne and Gascony, provinces which had both been erected into the dukedom of Aquitaine in the preceding century. The Normans were the great carriers. In the centre of the vessels that brought home the produce of the new English possessions in France were large fixed tanks (Pipæ gardæ), and right well did the sailors understand the process known as ‘sucking the monkey,’ or, in plain English, furtively drawing off the wine from its receptacle in course of transit. And they must have had plenty of choice, for amongst the wines imported [Pg 67]were Muscadell, Malmsey, Rhenish, Dele, Stum, Wormwood, Gascony, Alicant, Canary, Sack, Sherry, and Rumney.

At the very time that the English were enjoying the wines of France, our French neighbours were reciprocally appreciative. William FitzStephen, in his Life of Thomas à Becket, states that when he went as chancellor into France to negotiate a royal marriage, two of the waggons which accompanied him were laden with beer in iron-bound casks for presents to the French, ‘who admire that kind of drink, for it is wholesome, clear, of the colour of wine, and of a better taste.’

To this period many writers refer the origin of


And, as in many other cases, when the inventors are unknown, the Arabians are at once accredited with the discovery. The argument probably runs thus—Alcohol, alchymy, alchymist, alembic, have all something in common; moreover, they all begin with al, and al is the Arabic article, therefore alcohol was invented by the Arabians. So high an authority as Gibbon (Decline and Fall) is of opinion that ‘they first invented and named the alembic for the purpose of distillation.’ Indeed, it is the commonly received opinion that their visionary hope of finding an elixir of immortal health led them to the discovery of alcohol, and entailed upon mankind a beverage which has proved to some a blessing, but to millions a curse.

But the derivation of the words is the history of their origin. Alembic is the Greek ἄμβιξ, a beaker, with the Arabic prefix al, which is intensive. Alcohol is the Hebrew Kaal (Chaldaic cohal), with the sa[Pg 68]me prefix, and signifies something highly subtilised, pure spirit.[57] The Arabians owed much to other countries; they were rather restorers and improvers than inventors. They formed the link which unites ancient and modern literature; but their superstitious reverence for antiquity checked originality of ideas and freedom of thought. In respect of the discovery in question, it is certain that the invention preceded the days of the Saracens. Pliny very nearly described the process. Thus, he details the mode of obtaining an artificial quicksilver by distillation; and in another book (xv.), he speaks of the vapour arising from boiling pitch being collected on fleeces of wool spread over pots, and afterwards extracted from them by expression. Galen, the famous medical writer of the second century, speaks of distillation per descensum; while Zosimus, a writer of the fifth century, has given figures of a distilling apparatus which Borrichius has copied in his Hermetis et Ægyptiorum Chemicorum Sapientia.

The sobriety of the country can be tolerably gauged from a comparison of such contemporary writers as John of Salisbury, Giraldus Cambrensis, and Peter of Blois. The former of these, in a letter to a friend, writes:—‘You know that the constant habit of drinking has made the English famous among all foreign nations.’ In another letter, sent by him to this country: ‘Both nature and national customs make you drunkards. I[Pg 69]t is a strife between Ceres and Bacchus. But, in the beer which conquers, and reigns, and domineers with you, Ceres prevails.’ Again, in his Polycraticus, he distinguishes between vulgar feasts, when the mightiest tippler is considered the best man, and polite feasts, where sobriety becomes joyous, and plenty does not lead to excess. Giraldus Cambrensis, Archdeacon of Brecknock at the close of the twelfth century, describes a dinner with the Prior of Canterbury where were a variety of wines such as piment and claret, besides mead, &c. Of the Irish clergy, he says, ‘you will not find one who, after all his rigorous observance of fasts and prayer, will not make up at night for the labours of the day, by drinking wine and other liquors beyond all bounds of decorum.’ Peter of Blois observes, in one of his letters:—‘When you behold our barons and knights going on a military expedition, you see their baggage horses loaded, not with iron but wine, not with lances but cheeses, not with swords but bottles, not with spears but spits. You would imagine they were going to prepare a great feast, rather than to make war.’

The greatest genius of the reign of Henry II. was Walter Mapes, the king’s chaplain, best known under the names of ‘Map,’ and the ‘jovial archdeacon.’ This last title is an anachronism, inasmuch as he was not made Archdeacon of Oxford till the reign of Henry’s son Richard, when he was no longer an author. His powerful satire was directed against the growing corruptions of the Church. Never were abuses more sweepingly exposed than in his famous Apocalypse of Golias—Bishop Golias being an imaginary impersonation of ecclesiastical profligacy. In estimating the personal qualifications of Mapes to sit in judgment on his clerical brethren, it[Pg 70] should be remembered that he was the author of a celebrated drinking ode in Leonine verse, which has a singularly Bacchanalian ring about it. Camden alludes to the author as one who filled England with his merriments, and confessed his love to good liquor, with the causes, in this manner:—

Mihi est propositum in taberna mori;
Vinum sit appositum morientis ori:
Ut dicant, cum venerint, angelorum chori,
Deus sit propitius huic potatori.

Poculis accenditur animi lucerna,
Cor imbutum nectare volat ad superna;
Mihi sapit dulcius vinum in taberna
Quam quod aqua miscuit præsulis pincerna.

Suum cuique proprium dat natura munus,
Ego nunquam potui scribere jejunus;
Me jejunum vincere posset puer unus,
Sitim et jejunium, odi tanquam funus.

Unicuique proprium dat natura donum,
Ego versus faciens, vinum bibo bonum,
Et quod habent melius dolia cauponum,
Tale vinum generat copiam sermonum.

Tales versus facio, quale vinum bibo,
Nihil possum scribere, nisi sumpto cibo,
Nihil valet penitus quod jejunus scribo,
Nasonem post calices carmine præibo.

Mihi nunquam spiritus prophetiæ datur,
Nisi tunc cum fuerit venter bene satur,
Cum in arce cerebri Bacchus dominatur,
In me Phœbus irruit, ac miranda fatur.

Of which the following, by Robert Harrison, is an ‘Imitation.’

[Pg 71]I’m fixed:—I’ll in some tavern lie,
When I return to dust;
And have the bottle at my month,
To moisten my dry crust:
That the choice spirits of the skies
(Who know my soul is mellow)
May say, Ye gods, propitious smile!
Here comes an honest fellow.

My lamp of life ‘I’ll’ kindle up
With spirits stout as Hector;
Upon the flames of which I’ll rise
And quaff celestial nectar.
My lord invites me, and I starve
On water mix’d with wine;
But at The Grapes, I get it neat,
And never fail to shine.

To every man his proper gift
Dame Nature gives complete:
My humour is—before I write,
I always love to eat;
For, when I’m scanty of good cheer,
I’m but a boy at best:
So hunger, thirst, and Tyburn-tree
I equally detest.

Give me good wine, my verses are
As good as man can make ‘em;
But when I’ve none, or drink it small,
You’ll say, The devil take ‘em!
For how can anything that’s good
Come from an empty vessel?
But I’ll out-sing even Ovid’s self
Let me but wet my whistle.

With belly full, and heart at ease,
And all the man at home,
I grow prophetic, and can talk
Of wondrous things to come.
When, on my brain’s high citadel,
Strong Bacchus sits in state,
[Pg 72]Then Phœbus joins the jolly god,
And all I say is great.[58]

Others have tried their hand at a translation. S. R. Clarke (Vestigia Anglicana) thus renders the first stanza:—

Well, let me jovial in a tavern die,
And bring to my expiring lips the bowl,
That choirs of angels, when they come, may cry,
Heaven be propitious to the toper’s soul.

The late Mr. Green gives the following version:—

Die I must, but let me die drinking in an inn!
Hold the wine-cup to my lips sparkling from the bin!
So, when angels flutter down to take me from my sin,
‘Ah, God have mercy on this sot,’ the cherubs will begin![59]

It only remains to add that this enigmatical character well earned the title of ‘the Anacreon of his age.’

The habits of the king were abstemious, an example which his sons disregarded. So dissolute and hot was Geoffrey in his youth, remarks Giraldus, that he was equally ensnared by allurements, and driven on to action by stimulants. The ‘nappy ale’ and the cup of ‘lambswool,’ well known to the readers of the pretty ballad entitled ‘King Henry II. and the Miller of Mansfield,’ were the ruin of the royal prince, so prematurely cut off. It might have been well for the three brothers, Geoffrey, Richard, and John, had the sumptuary laws of their father extended to drinks as well as meats. But in forming an estimate of individuals much is to be taken into account; and in the present instance, in addition to youth and, perhaps, propensity, it must [Pg 73]be remembered that the surroundings of the court and the conviviality of the times acted and reacted. Everything that could was made to minister to appetite. Religion itself was made subservient to the vulgar taste. Its festivals were accommodated to the vulgar craving. The feast of the Saviour’s nativity was among the primitive Christians ushered in by the display of calm devotional feeling, unalloyed with the counterfeit of sensual enjoyment, but soon it degenerated into a scene of boisterous activity. Such it was during the Anglo-Saxon period. Such it continued under the line of Norman kings, with the one redeeming feature of the assembling of the prelates and nobles of the realm for deliberating upon the affairs of the country. As a relief, however, to these grave deliberations the guests were feasted with a series of banquets. The part played by Cœur de Lion at such entertainments is thus alluded to in one of the metrical romances of the period:—

Christmas is a time full honest;
King Richard it honoured with great feast,
All his clerks and barons
Were set in their pavilions,
And served with great plenty
Of meat, and drink, and each dainty.

In the same way the festival of St. Martin was degraded. The old calendars of the Church state, in the order of the day: ‘The Martinalia, a genial Feast; wines are tasted of, and drawn from the lees; Bacchus in the figure of Martin.’ While (says John Brady) it generally obtained the title of the second Bacchanal among old ecclesiastical writers:—

[Pg 74]Altera Martinus dein Bacchanalia præbet;
Quem colit anseribus populus multoque Lyæo.

A little old ballad tells the same tale, which begins:—

It is the day of Martilmasse,
Cuppes of ale should freelie passe.

Days spent in this medley of feast and deliberation gave place to nights of revelry, at which masques and mummings formed some of the features of the entertainments. A continual round of revelry was thus maintained during the whole of the twelve days forming the feast of Yule, and seldom until the expiration of the closing night’s debauch did they return to a more sober course. A capital insight into the manners of the times of the first Richard is supplied by Sir Walter Scott in his historical romance Ivanhoe. From it we gather the forms of pledging then adopted: thus Cedric is represented as addressing Sir Templar:—‘Pledge me in a cup of wine, and fill another to the Abbot, while I look back some thirty years to tell you another tale.’ ‘To the memory of the brave who fought’ at Northallerton! ‘Pledge me, my guests.’ After ‘deep drinking’ a further toast is proposed:—‘Knave, fill the goblets—To the strong in arms, be their race or language what it will.’ On another occasion we find the hermit bringing forth ‘two large drinking-cups, made out of the horn of the urus, and hooped with silver. Having made this goodly provision for washing down the supper, he seemed to think no farther ceremonious scruple necessary on his part; but filling both cups, and saying in the Saxon fashion, ‘Waes Hael, Sir sluggish knight!’ he emptied his own at a draught. ‘Drink Hael, Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst!’ answered the warrior. Another story is given in which Cedric welcomes King Richard with the same salutation.

[Pg 75]

The heads of religious houses are probably caricatured with truth. There is exquisite satire in the letter which Conrad is made to read from Prior Aymer:—‘Aymer, by divine grace, Prior of the Cistercian house of St. Mary’s of Jorvaulx, to Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, a knight of the holy order of the Temple, wisheth health, with the bounties of King Bacchus and my Lady of Venus.... I trust to have my part when we make merry together, as true brothers, not forgetting the wine cup. For, what saith the text? Vinum lætificat cor hominis.’ The capacity of Friar Tuck is gauged by the king (chap. xli.) at ‘a but of sack, a runlet of malvoisie, and three hogsheads of ale, of the first strike. If,’ says the king, ‘that will not quench thy thirst, thou must come to court, and be acquainted with my butler.’

The Chronicles of St. Edmundsbury abound with the irregularities of this time. For instance, we read of a tournament held near St. Edmund, after which eighty young men, sons of noblemen, were asked to dine with the Abbot. After dinner, the Abbot retiring to his chamber, they all arose and began to carol and sing, sending into the town for wine, drinking, screeching, depriving the Abbot and convent of sleep, and refusing to desist at the command of the superior. When the evening was come they broke open the town gates, and went out. The Abbot solemnly excommunicated them. Very few years after this (a.d. 1197) we find the cellarer, at the same St. Edmundsbury, turned out for drunkenness. The next year his successor committed a crime, for which the Abbot restricted him to water. In the case of another official,[60] his goods were seized for gross irregularities.

[Pg 76]

The clergy seem to have needed public admonition. The eighteenth of Hubert Walter’s Legislative Canons at York enjoins: ‘Because, according to the Word of the Lord, if the priest offend he will cause the people to offend; and a wicked priest is the ruin of the people; therefore the eminence of their order requires that they abstain from public bouts and taverns.’

The tenth canon of the same archbishop, at Westminster, a.d. 1200, ordained ‘that clerks go not to taverns or drinking bouts, for from thence come quarrels, and then laymen beat clergymen, and fall under the Canon.’

When such was the condition of the clergy, it would be vain to look for a high standard of morality among the people. Richard of Devizes, the chronicler of the acts of Richard I., exposes the intemperance of the king’s troops engaged in Palestine, and its influence upon their allies. He remarks: ‘The nations of the French and English, so long as their resources lasted, no matter at what cost, feasted every day in common sumptuously, and, with deference to the French, to something more than satiety; and preserving ever the remarkable custom of the English, at the notes of clarions, or the clanging of the trumpet or horn, applied themselves with due devotion to drain the goblets to the dregs. The merchants of the country, who brought the victuals into the camp, unaccustomed to the wonderful consumption, could hardly credit that what they saw was true, that a single people, and that small in number, should consume three times as much bread, and a hundred times as much wine, as that on which many nations of the heathen, and each of them innumerable, lived. The hand of the Lord[Pg 77] deservedly fell upon these enervated soldiers.’[61]

Allusion has already been made to the personal habits of King Richard I. The immediate cause of his death was an arrow which pierced his shoulder upon the occasion of his laying siege to the castle of Limosin. Some have blamed the unskilfulness of the surgeon in attendance; others have said, the king himself by his intemperance did not a little help to inflame the wound.[62]

The Edwardian romance, entitled ‘Richard Cœur de Lion,’ contains abundant allusions to conviviality. In the following quotation, the occurrence of the term costrel, by which is intended an earthen or wooden flask, is the occasion of a paragraph in Chaffer’s valuable work on pottery.[63]

Now, steward, I warn thee,
Buy us vessel great plente,
Dishes, cuppes and saucers,
Bowls, trays and platters,
Vats, tuns, and costrel.

The same romance tells that it was a female minstrel, an Englishwoman, who betrayed the knight-errant king on his return from the Holy Land. It is worth quoting as illustrative of minstrel life which in these times formed so prominent a feature:—

When they had drunken well a fin,
A minstralle com therein,
[Pg 78]And said, ‘Gentlemen, wittily,
Will ye have any minstrelsey?’
Richard bade that she should go.
The minstralle took in mind,
And saith, ‘Ye are men unkind;
And if I may, ye shall for-think
Ye gave neither meat nor drink,
For gentlemen should bede
To minstrels that abandon yede,
Of their meat, wine, and ale.’[64]

In the reign of King John occurs

The Earliest Statute on the Foreign Wine Trade.

It was enacted (1200) that the wines of Anjou should not be sold for more than 24s. a tun, and that the wines of Poitou should not be higher than 20s. The other wines of France were limited to 25s. a tun, ‘unless they were so good as to induce any one to give for them two marks or more.’ Twelve honest men in every town were to superintend this assize. This ordinance, Holinshed says, could not last long, for the merchants could not bear it; and so they fell to, and sold white wine for eightpence the gallon, and red, or claret, for sixpence. The king claimed, out of every imported cargo, one tun before the mast, and another behind it, under the name of prisa or prisa recta, and officers were appointed to collect and account for the same. From the entries of this reign we discover that the principal wines then consumed in England were—those of Anjou, chiefly white and sweet; Gascon wine, wine of Saxony, and wine of Auxerre, which came from the territory of the Duke of Burgundy.[65]

[Pg 79]

The introduction of these wines soon began to manifest its effects. Roger de Hoveden, whose annals date as far as the third year of John, says: ‘By this means the land was filled with drink and drinkers.’

That the English had a wide-spread fame for heavy drinking we incidentally learn from an on-dit of Pope Innocent III. When the case of the exemption of the Abbey of Evesham from the Bishop of Worcester was being argued before the pope, the bishop’s counsel said, ‘Holy father, we have learnt in the schools, and this is the opinion of our masters, that there is no prescription against the rights of bishops.’ The pope replied, ‘Certainly, both you and your masters had drunk too much English beer when you learnt this.’

King John founded the Abbey of Beaulieu, which had a famous vineyard. Possibly the imported wines did not please the palate of the monks. Their standard may have been that of a writer of the period who has given the world an enumeration of the qualities of good wine, which he says should be as ‘clear as the tears of a penitent, so that a man may see distinctly to the bottom of his glass. Its colour should represent the greenness of a buffalo’s horn. When drunk, it should descend impetuously like thunder, sweet-tasted as an almond, creeping like a squirrel, leaping like a roebuck, strong, like the building of a Cistercian monastery, glittering like a spark of fire, subtle as the logic of the schools of Paris, delicate as fine silk, and colder than crystal.’[66]


[Pg 80]

[57] ‘Le mot en effet paraît être de l’ancienne Chaldée, où il signifiait “brûler.” En trouve-t-on des rudiments chez les peuples d’où nous vint d’abord cet “esprit” des liqueurs fermentées? On a cru longtemps que c’étaient les Arabes, mais nous pensons, avec Mongez et Pauw, que ce sont les Tartares qui en auraient appris la fabrication par les Chaldéens. Certaines liqueurs importées de Perse en Egypte semblent avoir été alcooliques.’ Edouard Fournier, Mélanges, vol. iii. p. 517.

[58] From Ritson’s Ancient Songs and Ballads.

[59] Short History of the English People. ‘The Latin poems commonly attributed to Walter Mapes,’ form a volume edited by the laborious Mr. Thomas Wright for the Camden Society in 1841.

[60] Cf. Tomline and Rokewode, Monastic and Social Life in the Twelfth Century.

[61] Rapin, History of England, vol. i. p. 256.

[62] The old metrical romance of Richard Cœur de Lyon has a similar reference to the Holy Land expedition—

‘The cuppes fast abouten yede,
With good wyn, pyement and clarré.’

[63] Marks and Monograms, p. 58.

[64] Took in mind = was offended. For-think = repent. Bede = give. Yede = travel.

[65] See Aspin’s Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants of England; Maddox: History of the Exchequer; Burton: Annals.

[66] Neckam.



A curious anecdote is told of King John in a book of anecdote,[67] that upon his last visit to Nottingham he called at the house of the mayor, and at the residence of the priest of St. Mary’s. Finding neither ale in the cellar of one, nor bread in the cupboard of the other, his majesty ordered every publican in the town to contribute sixpennyworth of ale to the mayor yearly, and that every baker should give a halfpenny loaf weekly to the priest. This custom was continued in the time of Blackner, the Nottingham historian, who wrote in 1815. The king, like his brothers, was fond of drink. Sir Walter in his Ivanhoe, while pleading for the general manners of his subjects, admits that John, and those who courted his pleasure by imitating his foibles, were apt to indulge to excess in the pleasures of the trencher and the goblet, and adds, ‘indeed, it is well known that his death was occasioned by a surfeit upon peaches and new ale.’ D’Aubigné, in his History of the Reformation, referring to this king, says that he drank copiously of cider, and died of drunkenness and fright. As his authority for this, he gives in a footnote a Latin extract from Matthew Paris to the effect that his sickness was increased by his pernicious gluttony; he surfeited himself with peaches and new cider, which greatly aggravated the fever in him.

[Pg 81]

The action of the Church in this reign to suppress intemperance brings us into contact with one in particular of many kindred species of sources of excess, namely,

Scot Ales.

First of all, what is the derivation of this compound term? ‘Scot’ (Saxon sceat, a part) signifies a portion of money assessed or paid—hence any payment. Thus ‘scot-free’ means no payment. ‘Ale’ signifies a merry gathering, a feast, a merry-making. We find it variously combined with prefixes which mostly explain themselves, as bid-ale, bride-ale, church-ale, clerk-ale, Easter-ale, give-ale, help-ale, lamb-ale, leet-ale, Midsummer-ale, scot-ale, tithe-ale, weddyn-ale, Whitsun-ale. In each of these a festival is denoted, at which ale was the predominant drink. In this sense Ben Jonson uses the term in the lines:—

And all the neighbourhood, from old records
Of antique proverbs, drawn from Whitsun lords,
And their authorities at wakes and ales.

And again:—

And then satten some and songe at the ale![68]

Scot-ales accordingly denote a gathering at which the company share the drinking expenses. But the first act of legislation on the subject presents to us the expression with a narrowed, but none the less definite, sense. In the year 1213 King John in his absence had appointed Fitzpiers, and Peter (the Bishop of Winchester), regents of the kingdom. They summoned a council at St. Albans, in which, among other matters, it was proclaimed to the sheriffs, foresters, and others, as they [Pg 82]loved their life and limbs, not to make any violent extortions, nor dare to injure any one, or to hold scot-ales anywhere in the kingdom, as they had been wont to do. This legislation was clearly levelled at the foresters, or officers of the forests, who kept ale-houses and drew customers by intimidation. Mr. Bridgett has clearly exposed their oppression. He says, ‘It will be remembered that royal forests, or uncultivated lands, formed, at that time, no small part of England, and that they were not subject to common law. The king’s officers took advantage of this immunity to exercise great tyranny over the people, and, previous to this period, sought to raise money by setting up taverns and drinking assemblies, which the country people were compelled to frequent for fear of incurring the displeasure of their petty tyrants. Modes of raising money, different in form, though similar in their nature and consequences, are by no means unknown to publicans at the present day; and labouring men, in order to get hired, have sometimes to purchase the good-will of the master of the beer or gin shop in which workmen assemble and wages are paid. It will be a happy day when a new Magna Charta shall rescue the nation from the tyranny of the “liquor interest,” whether it be that of the great brewers and distillers, or of the petty vendors.’[69]

But scot-ales were by no means confined to the foresters. The evil spread; the country was infested with them, and of this the language of councils and synods throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries is ample evidence.

[Pg 83]

In these ecclesiastical prohibitions the word ‘scotallum’ is scot-ale dog-latinised, a nut which many a foreign reader has failed to crack.

In the year 1220, Richard de Marisco, Bishop of Durham, decreed: ‘We forbid announcements of scot-ales to be made by a priest or any one else in the church. If priest or cleric do this, or take part in a scot-ale, he will be punished canonically.’

In 1223, Richard, Bishop of Sarum, orders, ‘that no announcement of scot-ales be made by laymen in the church, and neither in the churches nor out of the churches by priests or by clergymen.’

In 1230, Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, writes to his archdeacons: ‘We strictly command that you prohibit in your synods and chapters those drinking assemblies which are commonly called scot-ales; and every year, in every church of your archdeaconries, this prohibition must be several times made known; and if any presume to violate this prohibition, canonically made, you must admonish them canonically, and proceed against them by ecclesiastical censures.’

In 1237, Alexander Stavenby, Bishop of Coventry, forbids under penalty any priest to go to a tavern, or to keep a tavern or scot-ale.

In 1240, Walter of Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester, decreed: ‘We forbid the clergy to take part in those drinking parties called scot-ales, or to keep taverns. They must also deter their flocks from them, forbidding by God’s authority and ours the aforesaid scot-ales, and other meetings for drinking.’

In 1255, Walter de Kirkham, Bishop of Durham, wrote: ‘We adjure all priests, by Him who lives for ever, and all the ministers of the Church, especially those in holy orders, that they be not drunkards, nor [Pg 84]keep taverns, lest they die an eternal death; moreover, we forbid scot-ales and games in sacred places.’

In 1256, Giles of Bridport, Bishop of Salisbury, decreed: ‘We confirm the prohibition of scot-ales, which has been made for the good both of souls and bodies; and we command rectors, vicars, and other parochial priests that, by frequent exhortations, they earnestly induce their parishioners not rashly to violate the prohibition.’

For another century occasional decrees are issued upon the same subject. One of the last admonitions respecting scot-ales is to be found proceeding from the Synod of Ely in 1364.

It will have been observed how vigorous was the action of the Church in the reign of Henry III. But all is not yet told. Archbishop Langton, in his Constitutions, 1222, decrees (canon 30) that archdeacons, deans, rural deans, and priests abstain from immoderate eating and drinking. Again (canon 47), that neither monks nor canons regular spend time in eating or drinking, save at the stated hours. They may by leave quench their thirst in the refectory, but not indulge.

In the Constitutions of Archbishop Edmund, 1236, the sixth canon forbids clergymen ‘the ill practice by which all that drink together are obliged to equal draughts, and he carries away the credit who hath made most drunk, and taken off the largest cups; therefore, we forbid all forcing to drink.’

Bishop Grosseteste, to whom reference has lately been made, turned his attention to the indirect as well as the direct occasions of excess. He suppressed the May games in his diocese of Lincoln, from which date the practices of the day have gradually changed. The nature of the[Pg 85] festivities may be guessed from the fact that the Maypole used to be called ale-stake.[70]

The action of the civil power was still limited in its scope. Regulation of tariff was among the most prominent of its efforts. Thus in the fifty-first year of Henry III. (1266), it was enacted that when a quarter of wheat is sold for 3s. or 3s. 4d., and a quarter of barley for 1s. 8d., and a quarter of oats for 1s. 4d., then brewers in cities ought and may well afford to sell two gallons of beer or ale for a penny; and out of cities to sell three or four gallons for a penny. These regulations are indicative that the manufacture of ale had become of much consequence.

The quality of this drink was questionable. Matthew Paris describes it as very weak.

Henry of Avranches, a Norman poet of the period, has some coarse banter upon it. The lines as translated begin thus:—

Of this strange drink, so like the Stygian lake,
Men call it ale, I know not what to make.

The criticism of the barons of Snowdon on London ale counts for what it is worth, for nothing satisfied them. Quartered at Islington, when they accompanied Llewellyn to England, they could neither drink the wine nor ale of London; neither mead nor Welsh ale could be obtained; the English bread they refused to eat, and all London could not afford milk enough for their daily requirement. Hard to please they clearly were; nevertheless, their complaint of the ale was justifiable. It was made indiscriminately of barley, wheat, and oats, sometimes of all combined. Without the hop, the ale[Pg 86] must have been insipid. To remove its mawkish flatness, they flavoured it with spices and other ingredients, especially long pepper.

Home-made cider was evidently in repute, since we find in this reign of Henry III. a gentleman holding his manor in Norfolk on condition of supplying the king, annually, at his exchequer, with two mites of wine, made of pearmains (a species of apple).

Again, before the close of this thirteenth century, Edward I. orders the Sheriff of Southamptonshire to provide 400 quarters of wheat, and to convey the same in good ships from Portsmouth to Winchelsea. Also to put on board the said ships 200 tuns of cider.

Still, whatever were the merits of the home vineyards and breweries, historians began to observe the growing fondness for foreign wines. They accounted for it in various ways: the listlessness of the people, home and foreign wars, crusades, and that ever-recurring cause of new phenomena, ‘change of circumstances.’ So argues Twyne, a man, according to history, of extraordinary knowledge in the antiquities of England.[71]

A new custom of one penny for every tun, called guage, was levied on all wines imported. From the duty collected between a given date in 1272 and 1273, at the ports of London, Portsmouth, Southampton, and Sandwich, we find that there were imported 8,846 tuns, in addition to the prisa not liable to the new impost.

Vinous preparations of a fancy character were much in use. We read of an order for the delivery of two tuns of white and one of red wine to make garhiofilac and clarry for the king’s table at York. The names[Pg 87] of some of these preparations are painfully significant. Recipes are found for making Bishop, Cardinal, Pope.

Whether in consequence of the royal statute upon ale, or for some other reason, the first mention I can find of the Crown as an inn sign occurs in this reign. The tavern was in that part of Cheapside called, after the inn, Crown Field. The king was evidently a moderate, plain-living man; the only festivities that he seemed to care for being those at Christmastide.

Inns, even at this time, were uncommon. In the time of Edward I. Lord Berkeley’s farmhouses were used instead. Travellers would not only inquire for hospitable persons, but even go to the king’s palaces for refreshment. Knights were known to lodge in barns. But, though few in number, they had already proved a nuisance. In the statutes for the regulation of the city of London in the time of Edward I., it is stated that ‘divers persons do resort unto the city:’ some who had been banished, or who had fled from their own country, also foreigners and others, many of them suspicious characters; and ‘of these, some do become brokers, hostlers, and innkeepers, within the city, as freely as though they were good and lawful men of the franchise of the city; and some do nothing but run up and down through the streets, more by night than by day, and are well attired in clothing and array, and have their food of delicate meats and costly; neither do they use any craft or merchandise; nor have they any lands or tenements whereof to live, nor any friend to find them; and through such persons many perils do often happen in[Pg 88] the city.’ In addition to this, it was complained that ‘offenders, going about by night, do commonly resort and have their meetings, and evil talk in taverns more than elsewhere, and there do seek for shelter, lying in wait and watching their time to do mischief.’ To do away with this grievance, taverns were not allowed to be opened for the sale of wine and ale after the tolling of the curfew.

In the first year of Edward I.’s reign was abolished the old impost called Prisage, and in its place a duty imposed of 2s. on every tun of wine imported. This tax afterwards obtained the name of Butlerage, because it was paid to the king’s butler. It was abolished in 1311, in consequence of a petition urged upon Edward II. for the redress of this and many other grievances.

It was stated above that ale was made of various cereals. In 1302, barley-malt was rated at 3s. 4d. per quarter, and from the cheapness of wheat the brewers malted that grain also. The beer made from barley was 3d. or 4d. a gallon, while that from wheat was only 1½d., wheat being then only about 2s. the quarter.[72] This caused a proclamation prohibiting the malting of wheat, lest it should prevent the encouragement of its growth for bread, and give the advantage to corn and other grain.

The Church made herself heard during the long reign of Edward I. in the Constitutions of Archbishop Peckham, 1281, and in a synod at Exeter, 1287. In the former, immoderate love of the pleasures of the table, both in eating and drinking, was condemned. In the latter, instructions were issued against the keeping or frequenting of taverns by the priesthood; and su[Pg 89]ch instructions were doubtless needed. Nor did the satirists spare the clergy. One of these, writing at the close of the thirteenth century, thus exposes a new order to which is attached the name of ‘Fair-Ease.’ Speaking of the particulars in which this new order imitated other orders, he adds: ‘Of Beverly they have taken a point, which shall be kept well and accurately; to drink well at their meat, and then afterwards until supper; and afterwards at the collation each must have a piece of candle as long as the arm below the elbow, and as long as there shall remain a morsel of the candle to burn, the brethren must continue their drinking.’ And again: ‘A point they have taken from the Black Monks, that they love drinking, forsooth, and are drunk every day, for they do not know any other way of living.... Also it is provided that each brother drink before dinner and after;’ and much more to the same effect.

At a visitation at St. Swithin’s Priory at Winchester, it appears that the monks claimed to have, among other articles of luxury, ‘vinum tam album quam rubeum, claretum, medonem, burgurastrum.’ This was in the year 1285. In the following year a benefactor grants to the said convent ‘unam pipam vini’ for their refection.[73]

Another satire on the corruptions in the Church, entitled ‘The Land of Cockaigne,’ is assigned to the latter part of the thirteenth century. The name signifies ‘kitchen-land.’ In this popular poem the land of animal delights is painted as the happy land of monks who had turned their backs upon the higher life to [Pg 90]which they were devoted. A line or two will give an idea.

In Cokaygne is met and drink
Without care, how, and swink.
The met is trie, the drink is clere,
To none, russin, and sopper.

Which Professor Morley interprets:—

In Cockaigne is meat and drink
Without care, trouble, and toil.
The meat is choice, the drink is clear,
At dinner, draught, and supper,

and explains russin to be wine between meals, often condemned of old; and connects with it the terms rouse and carouse, which, says he, denote emptying of the wine-cup, quoting, ‘The queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.’ But the words are generally referred to gar aus, all out. ‘Russin,’ in the eastern counties, still denotes drink at odd hours.

The household roll of the Countess of Leicester, widow of Simon de Montfort, reveals some secrets of the private life of the English towards the end of this thirteenth century. Among the wines in use in that family, Gascon and Bastard are prominent. Bastard was a sweet Spanish wine, of which there were two sorts, white and brown. Little is told in the roll of the price of wine. Nine shillings and twopence was paid for twenty-two gallons.

We are able to get a comparative view of the prices of food at this time from a list of articles supplied by his tenants when the Archbishop of Canterbury visited his lands at Tarrings in Sussex, about 1277. The prices seem very low.[Pg 91]

A bushel of wheat0
Carcass of beef14
Yearling hog08
4 gallons of beer01
2 good hens01
5 score eggs01

The quantity of beer consumed in the household of the countess was immense. On April 18, they brewed five quarters of barley and four of oats; on the 25th of the same month they bought 188 gallons of beer, and on the 29th brewed again. Cider is mentioned once, but was not especially relished. One tun was distributed among 800 paupers. Cordials were in demand.[74]

In the ‘Squire of Low Degree,’ probably of early fourteenth century date, the King of Hungary offers to provide for his daughter wines from all manners of countries—

Ye shall have Rumney and Malmesyne,
Both Hippocras and Vernage wine,
Mount Rose and wine of Greke,
Both Algrade and despice eke,
Antioche and Bastarde,
Pyment also and garnarde;
Wine of Greek and Muscadell,
Both claré, pyment, and Rochell,
The reed your stomake to defye,
And pottes of Osey sett you bye.[75]

The constant mention about this time of Hippocras (Ipocras, Ypocrasse) demands some notice. It was a most favourite drink of the middle ages, a compound of wine and aromatics. A curious recipe for it is given in Pegge’s Form of Cury—‘Ypocrasse for lords with gynger, synamon, and graynes, sugour, and turesoll; and for [Pg 92]comyn pepull, gynger, canell, longe peper, and claryffyed hony.’ Another recipe is found, much in vogue at wedding festivals, ‘introduced at the commencement of the banquet, served hot; of so comforting and generous a nature that the stomach would be at once put into good temper.’ It was constantly served with comfits; thus we find Elizabeth Woodville ordering up ‘green ginger, comfits, and ipocras.’ Katharine of Arragon gave ipocras and comfits for the voide. In a satire upon Wolsey, entitled, ‘Why come ye not to the Court?’ we find it in the company of sweetmeat—

Welcome, dame Simonia,
With dame Castimergia,
To drynke and for to eate,
Swete ipocras, and swete meate.

It is strange that Pepys should have thought it unintoxicating. Thus October 9, 1663, he went to Guildhall, met there some friends; wine was offered, ‘and they drunk, I only drinking some hypocras, which do not break my vowe, it being, to the best of my present judgment, only a mixed compound drink, and not any wine. If I am mistaken, God forgive me! But I hope and do think I am not.’ It differed from clarry (claré), wine mixed with honey and spice. Hence Fournier mistakes in thinking that hippocras was wine spiced ‘ou édulcoré avec le miel’ (Le Vieux-Neuf, vol. ii.).

We hear very little of home vineyards at this time, and, but for incidental allusions, it might be imagined that the foreign trade was a monopoly. At the same time, such allusions as we have are convincing that native wine was a rarity. Lambarde states that the Bishop of Rochester sent to King Edward II. when he was at Bockingfield ‘a present of his drinks, and [Pg 93]withal both wines and grapes, of his own growth, in his vineyard at Hallings.’

The days when bishops were identified with the contents of the cellar are buried in the sepulchre of the long past, but we are now speaking of a time when a bishop’s induction to his see was often a disgrace to civilisation. It is incredible, remarks Godwin, in his notice of the installation of Bishop Stapleton to the See of Exeter (1308), how many oxen, tuns of ale and wine, are said to have been usually spent at this kind of solemnity.

We have already mentioned that the duty on wine was taken off in the year 1311. Four years later, a proclamation was issued prohibiting the malting of wheat.[76] In 1317, merchants who were not of the freedom of the city were forbidden to retail wines or other wares within its precincts or suburbs. Thus much for the legislation of the reign.

The hospitality of the time must have been unbounded. Stowe gives a curious instance, taken from the accounts of the Earl of Lancaster’s steward for the year 1313. The items, which included 369 pipes of red wine, amounted to 7,309l., which is more than 20,000l. of our money, and, making the due allowance for the relative prices of food, would represent something like 100,000l. sterling.

The terrible fate of Edward II. almost forbids hars[Pg 94]h criticism of his life. He was certainly fond of the pleasures of the table, and is said to have given way to intemperance. Had not the banqueting-room been oftener employed than the council-chamber, opportunities might not have occurred for the rebellion of favourites, for which the festal board was answerable.


[67] Briscoe: Book of Nottinghamshire Anec[Pg 95]dote.

[68] Piers Plowman, fol. xxxii. b.

[69] Discipline of Drink, p. 181. For the overwhelming proof of his allegations, see Dunlop’s Artificial and Compulsory Drinking Usage.

[70] Cf. Brady: Clavis Calendaria, vol. i. p. 320.

[71] De Reb. Alb., p. 116.

[72] Fleetwood, Chronicon Preciosum, p. 75.

[73] The details of the recluse life will be found in Bishop Poore’s Ancren Riewle, or more readily in Fosbroke’s Monachism. See also Cutt’s Scenes and Characters of the Middle Ages; Tomline and Rokewood, Monastic and Social Life; and S. P. Bay, Monastic Institutions.

[74] More information can be derived from the roll of ‘Household expenses of the Bishop of Hereford,’ 1289-1290.

[75] See Ritson, Metrical Romances, vol. iii.

[76] Fleetwood (Chronicon Preciosum, 1707) states that ‘by the rains in harvest the dearth was such that wheat came to 30s. and 40s. the quarter. And good ale was at the gallon (per lagenam, from whence our flagon) 2d., the better sort 3d., the best 4d. So that a proclamation was fain to be issued out that a lagena of ale should be sold at 1d., and that no wheat should be malted (imbrasiatum).’



For a picture of the social life of the remainder of the fourteenth century, we turn of necessity to one who was the ornament of two of the most brilliant courts in the annals of England, viz. those of Edward III. and his successor, Richard II. We are for ever indebted to him for exquisite pictures of genuine English life and character in its infinite phases. And it may be here noticed, as bearing upon our subject, that this

Geoffrey Chaucer

was the son of a wine merchant; that by circumstance and ability he won for himself the patronage of Edward III.; that he was made controller of the customs of wine and wool in the port of London, and had a pitcher of wine daily from the royal table. Towards the close of the century he is supposed to have retired to pass the calm evening of his active life at Woodstock, where he is said to have composed his immortal Canterbury Tales.

The prologue, whether written by Chaucer or not, states that he was going to pass the night at the Tabarde Inn, in Southwark, previous to setting out on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury. A number of pilgrims, twenty-nine sundry folk, meet at this hostelry in good fellowship. There they sup together; after which ‘mine hoste’ proposes that[Pg 96] they shall journey together to Canterbury; that, in order to beguile the way, each shall tell a tale to and fro, and whoever tells the best shall have a supper at the expense of the rest; of course at his hostelry. The company assent. ‘Mine hoste’ is appointed judge and reporter of the stories. The pilgrims, or characters composing the social party, are, to all intents, an inventory of English society as it existed at that day. We seem actually to see the daily life of each reflected in the marvellous mirror. Allusions to drink abound. Thus, in the prologue, he describes a Prioress, and her delicacy of manners at table, as becomes a gentlewoman:—

Hire overlippè wiped she so clene,
That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene
Of gresè, whan she dronken hadde hire draught.

He describes the Frankelein or country gentleman, who was ambitious of showing his riches by the profusion of his table, but whose hospitality often degenerated into excess.

For he was Epicure’s owen sone,
That held opinion, that plein delit
Was veraily felicite parfite.

An householder, and that a grete was he;
Seint Julian he was in his contree.
His brede, his ale, was alway after on;
A better envyned man was no wher non.
    *    *    *    *
It snewed in his hous of mete and drinke.

London ale must have been then in repute, for among the accomplishments of one of the party who was less a pilgrim than a cook, it is noted:—

[Pg 97]

Well coude he knowe a draught of London ale.

Thomas Tyrwhitt, in a note on this line, remarks, ‘Whether this was a different sort of ale from that of the provinces, or only better made, I know not; but it appears to have been in request about a century after Chaucer. In the account of the feast of Archbishop Warham, in 1504, we find that London ale was higher priced than Kentish by 5s. a barrel.’

The true British sailor of Chaucer’s time exhibited nearly the same strong traits as our own brave tars. That his conscience was not too finely drawn appears in his conduct at Bordeaux, where he drew full many a draught of wine while the chapman slept:—

The hote sommer hadde made his hewe al broun,
And certainly he was a good felaw.
Full many a draught of win he hadde draw
From Burdeux ward, while that the chapman slepe;
Of nice conscience toke he no kepe.

The description of the Sompnour, or Ecclesiastical Apparitor, is not an inviting one. Church officials temp. Chaucer were not all they might have been.

A sompnour was ther with us in that place, 625
That hadde a fire-red cherubinnés face,
For sausefleme he was, with eyen narwe;
As hote he was, and likerous as a sparwe,
With scalled browes blake, and pilled berd:
Of his visage children were sore aferd. 630
    *    *    *    *
Wel loved he garlike, onions, and lekes, 636
And for to drinke strong win as rede as blood.
Than wolde he speke, and crie as he were wood.
And whan that he wel dronken had the win,
Than wold he speken no word but Latin. 640
A fewe termes coude he, two or three,
That he had lerned out of som decree;
[Pg 98]No wonder is, he herd it all the day.
And eke ye knowen wel, how that a jay
Can clepen watte, as wel as can the pope. 645
But who so wolde in other thing him grope,
Than hadde he spent all his philosophie,
Ay, Quæstio quid juris, wolde he crie. 648

Among others of the Sompnour’s iniquities which the poet lashes was his sale of silence. He would countenance the worst deviation from rectitude for a quart of wine. Quotation is withheld.

Before the pilgrims started from the Tabarde Inn, they had well drunk, as appears from Prologue, lines 749-752.

Gret chere made oure hoste us everich on,
And to the souper sette he us anon:
And served us with vitaille of the beste;
Strong was the win, and wel to drinke us leste.

Nor was this all. After some conversation with mine host, and certain suggestions made by him as to their behaviour on the way, we read in Prologue, lines 819-823:—

Thus by on assent
We ben accorded to his jugement,
And therupon the win was fette anon.
We dronken, and to reste wenten eche on,
Withouten any lenger tarying.

It was just as well they did.

Pass we on to the Canterbury Tales themselves. There is nothing in the Knighte’s Tale, as indeed we should have expected nothing from this ‘veray parfit gentil knight,’ apropos of our subject. But directly the Knighte’s Tale was ended, and mine host had requested the Monk to follow suit, the Miller strikes in, and insists on telling his tale, a very improper one indeed. This is the description of the drunken miller and his conduct—[Pg 99]

The Miller that for-dronken was all pale, 3123
So that unethes upon his hors he sat,
He n’old avalen neither hood ne hat, 3125
Ne abiden no man for his curtesie,
But in Pilates vois he gan to crie,
And swore by armes, and by blood, and bones,
I can a noble tale for the nones,
With which I wol now quite the knightes tale. 3130
Our Hoste saw that he was dronken of ale,
And sayd; abide, Robin, my leve brother,
Som better man shall tell us first another:
Abide, and let us werken thriftily.
By Goddes soule (quod he) that wol not I, 3135
For I wol speke, or elles go my way.
Our Hoste answerd; Tell on a devil way;
Thou art a fool; thy wit is overcome.
Now herkeneth, quod the Miller, all and some:
But first I make a protestatioun, 3140
That I am dronke, I know it by my soun;
And therefore if that I misspeke or say,
Wite it the ale of Southwerk, I you pray. 3143

There is nothing very specially to the point in the Millere’s Tale, but one or two facts show the universal part that drink played in the period. Thus when Absalom, the parish clerk, wishes to ingratiate himself with Alison, the carpenter’s wife,

He sent hire pinnes, methe, and spiced ale,
And wafres piping hot out of the glede:
And for she was of toun, he profered mede.
Lines 3378-3380.

or can the carpenter and his lodger carry on a conversation without the introduction of ‘a large quart of mighty ale’ (line 3497).

The Reve’s Tale, which is probably founded upon a[Pg 100] similar story in the Decameron of Boccaccio, largely turns upon drink—e.g., two Cantabs are going to sup and sleep at the miller’s:—

The miller the toun his doughter send 4134
For ale and bred, and roasted hem a goos, 4135
    *    *    *    *
They soupen, and they speken of solace, 4144
And drinken ever strong ale at the best. 4145
Abouten midnight wente they to rest.

But not, as we are told in a later verse, till ‘that dronken was all in the crouke,’ by which time all of the party had had too much. Their condition is described:—

Wel hath this miller vernished his hed,
Ful pale he was, for-dronken, and nought red.
He yoxeth, and he speketh thurgh the nose,
As he were on the quakke, or on the pose. 4150
To bed he goth, and with him goth his wif;
As any jay she light was and jolif,
So was hire joly whistle wel ywette. 4153
    *    *    *    *
This miller hath so wisly bibbed ale, 4160
That as an hors he snorteth in his slepe.

In the Man of Lawes Tale we have the account of a messager being so drunk that, ‘while he slept as a swine,’ his letters were stolen from him by the king’s mother, and changed to spite her daughter-in-law. His orgies are thus described:—

This messager drank sadly ale and wine, 5163
    *    *    *    *
He dranke, and wel his girdel underfight. 5209

Our poet thus apostrophises the sorry fellow:—

[Pg 101]

O messager, fulfilled of dronkenesse, 5191
Strong is thy breth, thy limmes faltren ay,
And thou bewreiest alle secrenesse;
Thy mind is lorne, thou janglest as a jay;
Thy face is tourned in a new array; 5195
Ther dronkenesse regneth in any route,
Ther is no conseil hid withouten doute. 5197

A virtuous mediæval commentator has written in the margin of a MS. copy of Chaucer in the Cambridge Library the following excellent Latin remarks:—

O messager. ‘Quid turpius ebrioso, cui fœtor in ore, tremor in corpore; qui promit stulta, prodit occulta; cui mens alienatur, facies transformatur; nullum enim latet secretum ubi regnat ebrietas.’

Query—Are these words merely the commentator’s effusion and outcome, or are they a quotation from some Latin writer? If the latter, they would probably have been the basis of Chaucer’s lines here. They say a good deal in a few words.

The ‘Wif of Bathe’ is one of Chaucer’s equivocal characters. Her remarks are usually incisive. Her attainments, upon her own confession, were mainly dependent on the brimming cup; as in the lines—

Tho coude I dancen to an harpe smale,
And sing ywis as any nightingale,
When I had dronke a draught of swete wine.

The same impression is produced in the engravings of the lady in Knight’s Old England. Chaucer continues:—

Metellius, the foule cherle, the swine,
That with a staf beraft his wif hire lif,
For she drank wine, though I had been his wif,
Ne shuld he not have daunted me fro drinke.

The story about Metellius beating his wife for drinking is told by Pliny (Nat. Hist. xiv. 13) of one Mecenius, bu[Pg 102]t Chaucer probably followed Valerius Maximus (vi. 3).

A little further on is a line full of truth—

In woman vinolent is no defence,

which may have been suggested by the couplet in Romaunt de la Rose:—

Car puisque femme est enyvrée
Et n’a point en soy de deffence.

The Sompnour, or, in other words, the summoner (so called from delivering the summonses of the archdeacons), vows vengeance on the Frere (friar) for telling a tale so palpably levelled at his profession, and, giving him a Roland for his Oliver, thus describes the Frere of the period:—

Fie on hir pompe, and on hir glotonie,
And on hir lewednesse; I hem defie. 7510
Me thinketh they ben like Jovinian,
Fat as a whale, and walken as a swan
Al vinolent as botel in the spence;
Hir praier is of ful gret reverence;
Whan they for soules say the Psalm of Davit, 7515
Lo, buf they say, cor meum eructavit.

Tyrwhitt informs us that Jovinian was ‘perhaps the supposed emperour of that name in the Gesta Romanorum, c. lix., whose story was worked up into a Morality, under the title of “L’orgueil et présomption de l’Empereur Jovinien—à 19 Personages.”’

The following lines, still from the Sompnour’s Tale, are not Chaucer’s own, but a quotation or paraphrase from Seneca:—

A lord is lost if he be vicious 7630
And dronkennesse is eke a foule record
Of any man, and namely of a lord. 7632
    *    *    *    *
[Pg 103] For goddes love drinke more attemprely. 7635
Win maketh man to lesen wretchedly
His mind, and eke his limmes everich on. 7637

The Marchante’s Tale abounds with allusions. Wine played no unimportant part at the marriage of January and May. It was not spared at the wedding. As we read in line 9596:

Bacchus the win hem skinketh al aboute.

The aged bridegroom primed himself by its aid—

He drinketh Ipocras, clarré, and vernage
Of spices hot, to encresen his corage.
Lines 9681, 9682.

And in the morning when ‘that the day gan dawe,’ we read that ‘then he taketh a sop in fine clarré’—line 9717.

All this, no doubt, is drawn from the marriage customs of Chaucer’s days.

In these times of luxury and excess what an example does the ‘poure widewe’ furnish in the Nonnes Prestes Tale. Truly idyllic!—

Full sooty was hire boure, and eke hire halle,
In which she ete many a slender mele.
Of poinant sauce ne knew she never a dele.
No deintee morsel passed thurgh hire throte;
Hire diete was accordant to hire cote.
Repletion ne made hire never sike;
Attempre diete was all hire physike,
And exercise, and hertes suffisance.
The goute let hire nothing for to dance,
No apoplexie shente not hire hed.
No win ne dranke she, neyther white ne red:
Hire bord was served most with white and black,
Milk and broun bred, in which she fond no lack,
Seinde bacon, and somtime an ey or twey;
For she was as it were a maner dey.

[Pg 104]

Could she have divined that one day Professor Mayor would give to the world ‘Modicus cibi medicussibi’?

In the Manciple’s Prologue we find the following lines. The Manciple is chaffing the ‘coke’ for having had too much to drink. Inter alia, he remarks, lines 16993, 16994:—

I trow that ye have dronken win of ape,
And that is whan men playen with a straw.

These are worth quoting for the sake of Tyrwhitt’s note on 16993. ‘Wine of ape,’ he says, ‘I understood to mean the same as vin de singe in the old Calendrier des Bergiers. Sign 1. ii. b. The author is treating of physiognomy, and in his description of the four temperaments he mentions, among other circumstances, the different effects of wine upon them. The choleric, he says, a vin de Lyon; cest a dire, quant a bien beu veult tanser, noyser et battre. The sanguine a vin de singe; quant a plus beu tant est plus joyeux. In the same manner the phlegmatic is said to have vin de mouton, and the melancholick vin de porceau.’

In the Manciple’s Prologue, lines 17043 to 17050, we have the following praise of wine as a reconciler:—

Then gan our hoste to laughen wonder loude,
And sayd: I see wel it is necessary
Wher that we gon good drinke with us to cary;
For that wol turnen rancour and disese
To accord and love, and many a wrong apese.
O Bacchus, Bacchus, blessed be thy name,
That so canst turnen ernest into game:
Worship and thonke be to thy deitee.

If Laudibus arguitur vini vinosus Homerus be a true rule, we might say that Chaucer liked his glass.

[Pg 105]

In the Persones Tale, under heading De Gulâ, we read, ‘After avarice cometh glotonie, which is expresse agenst the commandement of God. Glotonie is unmesurable appetit to ete or to drinke.... This sinne hath many spices. The first is dronkennesse, that is the horrible sepulture of manne’s reson: and this is dedly sinne.’

The Rime of Sire Thopas is tantalising. It breaks off just as we are assured that Sire Thopas

Himself drank water of the well,
As did the knight Sire Percivell
So worthy under wede,
Till on a day——

Hiatus valde deflendus! Yet we find with strange inconsistency in lines 13801-13803—

And ther he swore on ale and bred
How that the geaunt should be ded,
Betide what so betide.

Lines 13693, 13694 show the early use of the nutmeg with liquor—

And notemuge to put in ale,
Whether it be moist or stale:

as in the old song—

What gave thee that jolly red nose?
Nutmegs and cloves.

This ample history of manners from one of our greatest poets scarcely needs to be supplemented. Indeed, little can be added even from that withering satire of Robert Longlande, entitled the Vision of Pierce Plowman, who, lashing everybody, did not spare the corruptions of the Church. To this vision has been commonly annexed a poem, called ‘Pierce the Plowman’s Crede,’ a satire on the Mendicant Friars. These last had sprung up in the preceding century. They were,[Pg 106] indeed, a necessity of the time, so far had the monastic orders degenerated from their primitive simplicity, so wholly were they abandoned to luxury and indolence. In the following lines of the ‘Crede’ a Franciscan is defending his order:—

Of al men upon mold we Minorites most sheweth
The pure Aposteles lif, with penance on erthe,
And suen [follow] hem in sanctite, and sufferen wel harde.
We haunten not tavernes, ne hobelen abonten
At marketes and miracles we medeley us never.

The Early English Text Society has done good service in publishing one of the many mediæval handbooks of the same kind, called Instructions for Parish Priests. The book is by John Myrk, a canon regular of St. Austin. Amongst these instructions the priest is bidden to eschew drunkenness, gluttony, pride, sloth, and envy. He must keep from taverns, trading, wrestling, shooting, hunting, hawking, and dancing. Dr. Cutts infers from Chaucer’s description of the poor parson of a town, that these instructions were not thrown away upon the mediæval parish priests.

The legislation of the fourteenth century, so far as it concerns our subject, was of an in-and-out character. It enacted and repealed, repealed and enacted. In 1330 it was ordained: ‘Because there are more taverners in the realm than were wont to be, selling as well corrupt wines as wholesome, and have sold the gallon at such price as they themselves would, because there was no punishment ordained for them, as hath been for them that sell bread and ale, to the great hurt of the people,’ that wine must be sold at reasonable prices, and that the wines should be tested twice a year—at Easter and Michaelmas, oftener if needful—and corrupt win[Pg 107]es poured out, and the vessels broken.

In 1338 wine was taxed, on a great emergency. Edward III. wanted a vast sum to pay the subsidies which he had granted to his foreign allies. The great men granted him a moiety of their wool, which sold for 400,000l.; besides a duty of 2s. a tun upon wine, added to the usual customs paid by all foreign merchants.

The preamble of the Act of 1365 deserves special attention:—‘The King wills of his grace and sufferance that all merchant denizens that be not artificers, shall pass into Gascoign to fetch wines thence, to the end and intent that by this general licence greater liberty may come, and greater market may be of wines within the realm; and that the Gascoigns and other aliens may come into the realm with their wines, and freely sell them without any disturbance or impeachment.’

By the 42nd Edward III., c. 8, rigour was again imposed, and wines forbidden to be brought into England save by Gascons and other aliens. In the next year the previous Act was renewed at the request of his son the Prince, who found the subsidies and customs of wines diminished in his principality of Aquitaine, by reason of the falling off of the wine trade with England. A revival of the trade ensued. Froissart states that in 1372 a fleet arrived at Bordeaux from England of not less than two hundred sail of merchantmen in quest of wines.

In 1378 foreigners were allowed to sell wine in gross but not in retail.

The same contradictions manifest themselves in the Acts of Richard II.’s reign as in those of his predecessor; e.g.

In 1381 no sweet wines or claret could be sold ret[Pg 108]ail. In the following year the price of foreign wines was again regulated. It was enacted that the best wines of Gascony, Osey, and Spain, and Rhenish wines should be sold for 100 shillings, and the best Rochelle wines at 6 marks the tun; and by retail, the former at 6d., the latter at 4d., a gallon. Marvellous to relate, Holinshed states that, before the close of the reign, so abundant was the article that it was sold at the maximum price of 20s. a tun.

In 1387, it was enacted that no wine be carried out of the realm.

It is curious to observe how our sumptuary laws recognised certain seasons, and exempted them from their operation. Christmas, for example, had not only been set apart for sacred observance, but had become a time of feasting and revelry. When Edward III., in his tenth year, tried to restrain his subjects from over luxury, exception was made in the case of the great feasts of the year—‘La veile et le jour de Noel, le jour de Saint Estiephne, le jour de l’an renoef [New Year’s Day], les jours de la Tiphaynei et de la Purification de Notre Dame.’

We have already found that attention was drawn to taverns in the time of Edward I. In the reign of Edward III. only three taverns were allowed in the metropolis. Publicans were already compelled by law to put up a sign. Thus, in 1393, Florence North, a Chelsea brewer, was ‘presented’ for not putting up the usual sign. The penalty was the forfeiture of their ale. With other trades it was optional. Conversely, the taking away of a publican’s licence was accompanied by the removal of his sign—

[Pg 109]

For this gross fault I here do damn thy licence,
Forbidding thee ever to tap or draw;
For instantly I will in mine own person
Command the constables to pull down thy sign.[77]

By the gradual institution of inns, where travellers could obtain food and lodging, the old methods of hospitality began to pass away. ‘The convenient chamber for guests,’ which we find in the inventories of a country parson’s house in the middle ages, was becoming a relic of the past. This, and the more public hospitium, or guest-house, within the walls of the monasteries, had for ages furnished the shelter and provender which could only thus be gotten.

In the time of Richard II. the Little Park at Windsor was used as a vineyard for home consumption. Thus Stowe (Chronicle, p. 143) says that among the archives of the Court of Pleas of the Forest and Honours at Windsor, is to be seen the ‘yearly account of the charges of the planting of the vines that in the time of Richard II. grew in great plenty within the Little Park, as also the making of the wine itself, whereof some part was spent in the king’s house, and some part sold to his profit, the tithes whereof were paid to the Abbot of Waltham.’

But the inutility of home vineyards is demonstrated from the cheapness of foreign wines at this time. In 1342 the price of Gascon wines in London was 4d., and that of Rhenish, 6d. per gallon; and in 1389, foreign wine was only 20s. per tun for the best, and 13s. 4d. for the second—that is, about three halfpence a dozen.

But to turn to the king himself. The pageant, or royal entertainment, on the accession of Richard II. is described by the chronicler Walsingham. The city was most richly adorned, and the conduits ran with wine for three hours. In the upper end of the Cheap was e[Pg 110]rected a castle with four towers, on two sides of which ran forth wine abundantly. In the towers were placed four beautiful girls dressed in white, who, on the king’s approach, blew in his face leaves of gold, and filling cups of gold with wine at the spouts of the castle, presented them to the king and his nobles.

The citizens had signified their joy in much the same way before, when Edward I. returned from the Holy Land. Maitland, in his London, seems to have regarded with wonder the fact that the very conduits in the streets through which the cavalcade passed ran with wine; but it happened before, and happened very often afterwards. Mr. Morewood (Hist. Ineb. Liq.) fell into the same error, and exclaims, ‘To this extravagance there are few parallels, except that of Polemkin, when he gave a magnificent feast to the Empress Catherine, at his palace in the Taurida, when the conservatory fountains were filled with champagne and claret, and served to the company by means of silver pumps applied to those reservoirs.’

The king was young when he came to the throne, extravagant, and fond of luxury. His Christmases seem to have been kept with especial splendour, and this to the very close of his unfortunate reign. In 1399 there was a royal Christmas at Westminster, when the consumption was prodigious. In the previous Christmas, at Lichfield, where the pope’s nuncio and other foreigners were present, they got rid of two hundred tuns of wine and two thousand oxen. But the king had a profligate set about him—De la Pole, De Vere, &c.; while he was grossly misled by the advice of Robert Tresylian, his Chief Justice of the King’s Bench; and no better epitome of the king’s ill star can be give[Pg 111]n than a stanza from the tragedy of The Fall of Robert Tresylian (1388):

Thus the king, outleaping the limits of his law,
Not reigning but raging, as youth did him entice,
Wise and worthy persons from court did daily draw,
Sage counsel set at nought, proud vaunters were in price,
And roisters bear the rule, which wasted all in vice:
Of riot and excess grew scarcity and lack,
Of lacking came taxing, and so went wealth to rack.

Henry IV. came to the throne in 1399. A pageant of the kind already mentioned was held. Froissart notices that there were seven fountains in Cheapside, and other streets he passed through, which perpetually ran with white and red wines. Profusion reigned supreme in high quarters; among the articles which furnished the breakfast table of the nobility were—for a gentleman and his lady, in Lent, a quart of beer and the same quantity of wine. And a gallon of beer and a quart of wine at their liveries, a repast taken in their bedrooms immediately before going to roost.

In looking through bills of entertainments at this period, one cannot help observing the contrast between the relative costs of the meats and drinks then and now. Then, the wine, ale, &c., were about one third of the entire cost, now the drink is oftener much the heavier item. This would be misleading, did we not take into consideration how much strong drink is made to yield to the revenue. The relative price of meats and drinks at that time wholly differ from the present relation. But wine was gradually becoming a dearer commodity. Malmsey in the reign of Henry IV. used to fetch the average price of 280 gallons for 5l. That sum would scarcely have bought half the amount in the reign of[Pg 112] Richard III.

The dissipated life led by the youth of the time appears in the reminiscences of the poet Occleve of his own conduct. If youth needs a warning against folly, he can do little better than study La male regie de T. Hoccleve, or Occleve’s Misrule. The tavern sign was to him an irresistible temptation. Westminster Gate was then noted for its taverns and cook-shops, at which the lavishness of Occleve made him a welcome guest. To this he alludes—

Wher was a greater maister eek than Y,
Or bet acqweynted at Westmynster Gate,
Among the taverners namely (especially)
And cookes? Whan I cam, eerly or late,
I pynchid nat at hem in mine acate (purchase of provisions),
But paied hem as they axe wolde;
Wherfore I was the welcomer algate (always),
And for a verray gentilman yholde (regarded).

And again—

The outward sign of Bacchus and his lure
That at his doore hangeth day by day,
Exciteth folks to taste of his moisture
So often that men cannot well say nay.

Of him that haunteth tavern of custume,
In shorte wordes the profit is this,
In double wise: His bag it shall consume,
And make his tonge speak of folk amis;
For in the cuppe seldom founden is
That any wight his neighbour commendeth.
Behold and see what avantage is his
That God, his friend, and eke himself offendeth[Pg 113]
    *    *    *    *
Now let this smart warninge to thee be,
And if thou mayst hereafter be relieved
Of body and pursé, so thou guidé thee
By wit that thou no moré thus be grieved.
What riot is, thou tasted hast and preeved.
The fire, men sayn, he dreadeth that is brent;
And if thou so do, thou art well y—meeved (moved),
Be now no longer fool, by mine assent.

Notwithstanding the arguments adduced by a modern historian to the contrary, the weight of evidence is overwhelming that the early life of Henry V. was a course of dissipation. His active spirit (in the language of Hume) broke out in extravagances of every kind; and the riot of pleasure, the frolic of debauchery, the outrage of the wine, filled the vacancies of a mind better adapted to the pursuits of ambition and the cares of government. Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Henry IV. the reflection upon his son—

Whilst I ...
See riot and dishonor stain the brow
Of my young Harry.

The abandoned Falstaff looked at the matter from another point of view, of course. He is represented as saying, ‘Hereof comes it, that Prince Harry is valiant; for the cold blood he did naturally inherit of his father, he hath, like lean, steril, and bare land, manured, husbanded, and tilled with excellent endeavor of drinking good, and good store of fertile sherris, that he is become very hot and valiant. If I had a thousand sons, the first human principle I would teach them should be, to forswear their potations, and addict themselves to sack.’ Yet even Falstaff could tell the truth sometimes, for in the early part of the same sentence, amidst a hurricane of rubbish, he tells that wine makes the blood ‘course from the inwards to the parts extreme.’ One fancies one is[Pg 114] reading Dr. B. W. Richardson as he tells, ‘wine propels the blood violently from the heart to the extremities.’ But Henry V. found place for repentance. His life as king was widely different from his life as prince. Among his troops at Agincourt drunkenness was counted a disgrace. So impressed was he with the bane of it, that he would gladly have cut down all the vines in France.

In the Liber Albus, compiled in this reign by John Carpenter, common clerk, and Richard Whittington, mayor, appears in full the oath of the ale-conners. These were officers appointed to look after the quality of ale, beer, and bread, to whom allusion is made in the Cobler of Canterburie:—

A nose he had that gan show
What liquor he loved I trow;
For he had before long seven yeare,
Beene of the towne the ale-conner.

The following is the oath—

You shall swear, that you shall know of no brewer or brewster, cook, or pie-baker, in your ward, who sells the gallon of best ale for more than one penny halfpenny, or the gallon of second for more than one penny, or otherwise than by measure sealed and full of clear ale; or who brews less than he used to do before this cry, by reason hereof, or withdraws himself from following his trade the rather by reason of this cry; or if any persons shall do contrary to any one of these points, you shall certify the Alderman of your ward [thereof] and of their names. And that you, so soon as you shall be required to taste any ale of a brewer or brewster, shall be ready to do the same; and in case that it be less good than it used to be before this cry, you, by assent of your Alderman, shall set a reasonable price thereon, according to your discretion; and if any one shall afterwards sell the same above the said price, unto your said Alderman you shall certify the same. And that for gift, promise, knowledge, hate, or other cause whatsoever, no brewer, brewster, huckster, cook, or pie-baker, who acts against any one o[Pg 115]f the points aforesaid, you shall conceal, spare, or tortuously aggrieve; nor when you are required to taste ale, shall absent yourself without reasonable cause and true; but all things which unto your office pertain to do, you shall well and lawfully do.—So God you help, and the saints.

So it is to be feared that there were some black sheep in the trade then, as now. Others certainly not so, for in this same fifteenth century we find that a licence was granted to John Calcot, landlord of the ‘Chequers,’ a tavern in Calcot’s Alley, Lambeth, to have an oratory in the house, and a chaplain for the use of his family and guests, so long as the house should continue orderly and respectable, and adapted to the celebration of Divine service.[78]

The jurisdiction of the ale-conners extended to offences of omission as well as commission. Thus we find them presenting one Thomas Cokesale, for refusing to sell ale to his neighbours while he had some on sale, and even while the sign (the ale-stake) was out. He was fined 4d.

On the other hand, in 1461, one Lentroppe was presented for having, contrary to the order, brewed three times under one display of the sign or ale-stake. For this he had to pay 6d. The man offended by brewing three times, and only making one signal of brewing. This, if he had not been detected, would have enabled him to sell two brewings without the liquor having been tasted by the proper officers, and the public might have had ale sold to them ‘not sufficiently mighty of the corn, or wholesome for man’s body.’[79] Another local law, mentioned in Scrope’s History of Castle Combe, was that no one was to brew in 1461 at the same time as the Churchwardens were brewing the church-ale for th[Pg 116]e profit of the church, under pain of 13s. 4d.; nor to brew or sell till all the ale brewed for the church was entirely sold. This was brewed for the benefit of the common fund for the relief of the poor in 1590. We pause here to consider the institution known as a


of which Easter-ales and Whitsun-ales are simply species. And first, their origin. The idea is without any doubt taken from the Agapæ, or Love Feasts, so famous in the early Church. Many of the features of these feasts were revived in the wakes of the middle ages, of which such was the popularity that the officers of parishes conceived that some things novel in name and character, but preserving the elements which made the wakes so popular, would answer the purpose and promote the objects they had in view.

There is an old pre-Reformation indenture in Dodsworth’s MSS., which not only shows the design of the church-ale, but explains the particular use and application of the word ale. The parishioners of Elveston and Okebrook in Derbyshire agree jointly ‘to brew four ales, and every ale of one quarter of malt, betwixt this and the feast of St. John Baptist next coming. And that every inhabitant of the said town of Okebrook shall be at the several ales. And every husband and his wife shall pay two pence, every cottager one penny, and all the inhabitants of Elveston shall have and receive all the profits and advantages coming of the said ales, to the use and behoof of the said church of Elveston, and the inhabitants of Elveston shall brew eight ales betw[Pg 117]een this and the feast of St. John Baptist, at the which ales the inhabitants of Okebrook shall come and pay as before rehersed, and if he be away at one ale to pay at the other ale for both.’[80]

Before the Reformation there were no poor rates. In their place were the charitable dole given at the religious houses, voluntary assessments towards church repairs, and the church-ale. The latter fell in best with the humour of the people; for a time it was tolerated because probably innocent, and in it a ready method was discovered for maintaining the fabric of the church, and furnishing its necessary ornaments. Stubbs, in his Anatomie of Abuses (1585), thus describes them:—

In certaine townes where dronken Bacchus beares swaie, against Christmas and Easter, Whitsondaie or some other tyme, the churchwardens of every parishe, with the consent of the whole parishe, provide halfe a score, or twentie quarters of mault, whereof some they buy of the churche stocke, and some is given them of the parishioners themselves, every one conferring somewhat, according to his abilitie; whiche maulte being made into very strong ale or bere, is sette to sale, either in the churche or some other place assigned to that purpose. Then when this is set abroche, well is he that can gete the soonest to it, and spend the most at it. In this kinde of practice they continue sixe weekes, a quarter of a yeare, yea, halfe a yeare together. That money, they say, is to repaire their churches and chappels with, to buy bookes for service, cuppes for the celebration of the sacrament, surplesses for Sir John, and such other necessaries, and they maintaine other extraordinarie charges in their parish besides.

That these ales were eminently productive, the churchwardens’ accounts of many parishes attest. Thus in Kingston-upon-Thames, the proceeds of the church-ale in 1526 are entered as 7l. 15s., not much short of 100l. as money goes now.

[Pg 118]

We find them satirised in Pierce Plowman thus:—

I am occupied everie daye, holye daye, and other,
With idle tales at the ale, and other while in churches.

In churches. Though they were not usually, if ever, held there, but in a place called the church-house. Thus Carew (Survey of Cornwall) says: ‘Whitsontide, upon which holidays the neighbours meet at the church-house, and there merily feed on their owne victuals, contributing some petty portion to the stock, which, by many smells, growth to a meetly greatness.’

In process of time of course they degenerated. The pulpits of the sixteenth century freely denounced them. A typical sermon on the abuses of the day is that of William Kethe, preached at Blandford in 1570, at which time ales must have been kept in his neighbourhood on Sunday, ‘which holy day the multitude call their revelyng day, which day is spent in bul-beatings, beare-beatings, bowlings, dicyng, cardyng, daunsynges, drunkenness, and whoredome.’ And when we remember that it is recorded of an old song, that

It hath been sung at festivals,
On ember eves and holy ales,

we shall the better appreciate the nature of the fall. ‘Desinit in piscem mulier formosa supernè.’

Efforts were made in this reign of Henry VI. for the better observance of Sunday; and, here and there, there are indications that efforts were made locally to bring about ‘Sunday closing.’ Mr. Bridgett has adduced a few examples. In 1428 the corporation of Hull made an order for the observance of the Sunday. No market was to be kept, under penalty of 6s. 8d. for sellers, and 3s. 4d. for buyers; no butchers were[Pg 119] to expose meat for sale, nor cooks to dress or sell except to strangers, and to them only before seven o’clock; no tradesmen to keep shops open; no vintners nor ale-house keepers to deliver or sell ale, under the same penalties. London made an attempt to suppress Sunday trading, but it was ineffectual. In the year 1444 ‘an Act was made, by authority of the Common Council of London, that upon the Sunday should no manner of thing, within the franchise of the city, be bought or sold, neither victual nor other things; nor none artificer should bring his ware to any man to be worn or occupied that day, as tailor’s garments or cordwainer’s shoes; and so likewise of all other occupations; the which ordinance held but a while.’

There was very little legislation upon these matters in Henry VI.’s reign. The planting of hops was prohibited. They were used by the brewers in the Netherlands early in the fourteenth century; and the use of them in beer was brought into England from Artois. But there will be more occasion to speak of them later on, when we shall find that privileges were granted to hop-grounds. In this reign the Brewery Company was incorporated, and we can readily believe that its brew was duly appreciated by John Lydgate, the monk of Bury.

Beer had risen immensely in price from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. When the Archbishop of Canterbury visited his land at Tarring, in Sussex, in 1277, four gallons of the best beer were to be charged only 1d.; whereas a tariff of 1464 shows an extraordinary advance.[Pg 120]

Best beer, per gallon2d.
Second ”1d.
Third ”d.

A century later it had again risen fifty per cent.

In the archives of Ely Cathedral we have the following account of the produce of a vineyard:—

Exitus vineti215
Exitus vineæ1012
Ten bushels of grapes from the vineyard076
Seven dolia musti from the vineyard 12th Edward II.1510
Wine sold for1120
For wine out of this vineyard122
For verjuice from thence0160
No wine but verjuice made 9th Edward IV.[81]

In an ordinance for the household of George, Duke of Clarence (Dec. 9, 1469), the sum of 20l. is allowed for the purveying of ‘Malvesie, Romenay, Osey, Bastard, Muscadelle, and other sweete wynes.’ This Romenay or Rumney has nothing to do with Rome or the Romagna, but was probably made from Greek vines, as Henderson suggests, derived from Rum-ili, a name given by the Saracens to Greece. The Osey above mentioned, or Auxois, was in old time a name for Alsace. It was richly and highly flavoured.

The mention of the Duke of Clarence brings up the spectre of his untimely end. A shroud of mystery veils its entire circumstances. He was charged with high treason and condemned to death. Ten days afterwards it was announced that he had died in the Tower. Was he first murdered and then drowned, as Shakespeare thought,[82] or is the old story to be believed, that he was drowned in a butt of malmsey? Since the death of his dearly loved wife, Isabel of Warwick, he had abandoned himself to intemperance, to drown his grief. With [Pg 121]such a habit contracted, with vexed conscience, in the despair of condemnation, and with a butt of his favourite drink by his side, what more natural than to suppose him to have been a miserable suicide? However, the weight of testimony leans to the other theory—that he was stabbed by Richard’s order, and the body thrown into the malmsey to make believe that he had unwittingly drowned himself under the influence of drink.

Mr. Martin Leake gives the origin of the term Malmsey: Monemvasia, now an island connected with the coast of Laconia by a bridge. This name, derived from its position (μόνε ἐμβασία, single entrance), was corrupted by the Italians to Malvasia; this place, celebrated for its fine wines, had its name changed to Malvoisie in French, and Malmsey in English, and came to be applied to many of the rich wines of Greece, the Archipelago, &c.[83]

The consumption of strong drink at public entertainments was something prodigious in the fifteenth century. At the banquet upon the occasion of the installation of George Neville, Archbishop of York, in 1464, no less than 300 tuns of ale and 100 tuns of wine were consumed. In the household of Archbishop Booth, his predecessor, it is stated that about 80 tuns of claret were consumed annually.

The usages of assay were at this time remarkable. Every cup of drink served to the great man of the house was assayed twice, once in the buttery and again in the hall. In the buttery the butler was required to drink, under the marshal’s eye, some of every vessel of liquor sent to the high table; and at the same time the marshal covered with its lid every cup, before committing it to the [Pg 122]lord’s cupbearer. It was treason for a cupbearer to raise the lid of a vessel thus confided to him, on his way from the buttery to the table; but he sipped it before his lord took a draught. On serving his master the cupbearer knelt, removed the lid, and poured some of the drink into the inverted cover. When he had drunk this, the servant handed the cup to his master, who, when he saw the liquor assayed before his eyes, accepted it as a liquor of credence which he might drink trustfully.[84]

But here we must stay for a while and inquire what action the Church had been taking for the past century to check intemperance. In the year 1359, Archbishop Islep, in his Constitution, informs Michael de Northburg, Bishop of London, that though it is provided by sanctions of law and canon that all Lord’s days be venerably observed from eve to eve, so that neither markets, negotiations, nor courts be kept, nor any country work done, that so every faithful man may go to his parish church to worship and pray, yet ‘we are, to our great heart’s grief, informed that a detestable, nay damnable, perverseness has prevailed, insomuch that in many places, markets, unlawful meetings of men who neglect their churches, various tumults and other occasions of evil are committed, revels and drunkenness, and many other dishonest doings are practised, ... wherefore we strictly command you that ye without delay canonically admonish, and effectually persuade in virtue of obedience, those of your subjects whom ye find culpable, that they do wholly abstain from markets, courts, and the other unlawful practices for the future,’ &c.

In a constitution held three years later, the same[Pg 123] Archbishop Islep lays intemperance to the charge of some of the priests, and imposes strenuous penalties in default of amendment.[85] In 1363 Archbishop Thoresby complains that it had become common for persons to meet in churches on the vigils of saints, and offend against God by their practices; that in the exequies of the dead, some turned the house of mourning and prayer into the house of laughter and excess to the great peril of their own souls. These were strictly forbidden to continue such practices.

In the year 1468 the Prior of Canterbury and the commissaries made a visitation (the see being then vacant); and it was ordered that potations made in the churches, commonly called give-ales or bride-ales, should be discontinued, under penalty of excommunication.[86]


was so called from the bride’s selling ale on the wedding day, and friends contributing what they liked in payment of it. Brand imagines that the expense was defrayed by the friends of the married pair when circumstances were such as to need help. It was also called bride-stake, bride-wain, and bride-bush; the bush sufficiently signifying the nature of the gathering, inasmuch as it was the ancient badge of a country ale-house. Before the festivities proper began on the return from the bridal ceremony, it appears that a curious drinking custom prevailed in the church. Wine, with sops immersed, was there drunk, and bowls were kept in the church for [Pg 124]this purpose. Thus, in an inventory of goods belonging to Wilsdon church in the sixteenth century, occurs the item, ‘two masers (mazers) that were appointed to remayne in the church for to drink in at bride-ales.’ Shakespeare alludes to this custom in his Taming of the Shrew, where Petruchio

Calls for wine:—‘A health,’ quoth he ...
... Quaff’d off the muscadel,
And threw the sops all in the sexton’s face.

The practice continued in force for a long time, for we find allusion to the same custom in the year 1720 in the Compleat Vintner:—

What priest can join two lovers’ hands,
But wine must seal the marriage-bands?
As if celestial wine was thought
Essential to the sacred knot,
And that each bridegroom and his bride
Believ’d they were not firmly ty’d
Till Bacchus with his bleeding tvn,
Had finished what the priest begun.

The wine thus drunk is called by Ben Jonson a ‘knitting cup.’ After the ceremony they retired to a tavern or went home, and then the orgies begun. In the words of an old writer, ‘When they come home from the church, then beginneth excess of eatyng and drynking, and as much is waisted in one daye as were sufficient for the two newe-maried folkes halfe a year to lyve on.’

But these customs are not peculiar to England only. The Scotch have their ‘penny bride-ale’ to help those who cannot pay the expense of the wedding feast. In Germany, when a window was put in or altered, was the fenster-bier (window-beer). At the churchings of women was the kark-bier (church-beer). At funerals w[Pg 125]as the grab-bier (grave-beer), beer forming an essential part of all such observances.

Edward IV. died in 1488, the victim of mortified ambition. His habits of life were licentious and intemperate. He died under a violent fever aggravated by excess. We can only hope that he died, as it is reported, a penitent. An account is given in the Paston Letters (cccxliv.) of an intended progress of the king, probably to facilitate his benevolences. In this, Sir John Paston is urged to warn William Gogney and his fellows ‘to purvey them of wine enough, for every man beareth me in hand that the town shall be drank dry, as York was when the king was there.’

In this reign the Earls of Warenne and Surrey possessed the privilege of licensing ale-houses. Mention has already been made of the ‘Crown,’ in Cheapside. In 1467 this house was kept by one Walter Walters, who in harmless pleasantry gave it out that he would make his son ‘heir to the “Crown.”’ This so displeased his Majesty Edward IV. that he ordered the man to be put to death for high treason.

One piece of legislation remains to be told before closing the period. In the first year of Richard III. (c. 13), it was enacted that malmsey should in future be imported only in butts of 126 gallons. This measure was for the prevention of frauds on the revenue. It was repealed by an Act of George IV.


[77] Massinger: A Ne[Pg 126]w Way to Pay Old Debts.

[78] Allen, History of Lambeth.

[79] Roberts: Social History of the Southern Counties.

[80] Dodsworth’s MSS., Bibl. Bod., vol. 148, p. 97.

[81] Speechly: Treatise on Culture of Wine, 2nd ed. p. 270.

[82] Richard III., act i. scene 4.

[83] Researches in Greece, p. 197.

[84] Jeaffreson: A Book about the Table.

[85] For a terrible account of the glutton-masses of the secular clergy, see Henry, Hist. Great Britain, book v. ch. 7.

[86] Warton (Hist. Poetry, iii. 414) cites the above from Archbishop Tanner’s manuscript Additions to Cowell’s Law Glossary.



The legislative enactments of the reign of Henry VII. demand minute attention. With a certain modification, it is true that the direct legislative sanction of the liquor traffic dates from this reign. The revival of the trade of England was a great object with this monarch. The greater part of the foreign trade of England had hitherto been carried on by foreigners in foreign vessels of burden. Henry was sensible that this prevented the increase of English ships and sailors; so, to remedy this in part, he got a law passed in his first Parliament, that no Gascony or Guienne wines should be imported into any part of his dominions, except in English, Irish, or Welsh ships, navigated by English, Irish, or Welsh sailors, which obliged them to build ships and go to sea, or to lack their favourite liquor. This law was enforced and enlarged by an Act made in his third Parliament (1487), when it was enacted that no wines of Gascony or Guienne, or woads of Tholouse, should be imported into England, except in ships belonging to the king or some of his subjects; and that all such wines and woads imported in foreign bottoms should be forfeited.

By 7 Henry VII., c. 7, it was enacted (in order to counteract the duty of four ducats a tun lately imposed by the Venetians) that ‘every merchant stranger (except Englishmen born) bringing malmseys into this realm, should pay 18s. custom for each butt, over and above the custom aforetime used to be paid.’ The price of the butt was fixed at 4l.

[Pg 127]

Of far more importance was the Act of 1496, passed ‘against vacabonds and beggars.’ This empowers two justices of the peace ‘to rejecte and put away comen ale-selling in townes and places where they shall think convenyent, and to take suertie of the keepers of ale-houses of their gode behavyng, by the discrecion of the seid justices, and in the same to be avysed and aggreed at the time of their sessions.’

Leland gives in his Collectanea a wine list which indicates the comparative prices of wines at this time:—

De Vino rubeo, VI dolia, prec. dol. 4l24 li
De Vino claret, IV dol. prec. dol. 7¾14 li138
De Vino alb. elect. unum dol3 li68
De Vino alb. pro coquina i. dol3 li
De Malvesey, i but4 li
De Ossey, i pipe3 li
De Vino de Reane, ii almes26s8

We get a good notion of the daily routine of court living in this reign from the ordinances of the royal household. There is nothing whatever in them indicative of excess, but they are interesting as matters of history, and records of etiquette. ‘When the king cometh from evensong into his great chamber on the even of the day of estate, the chamberlain must warn the usher before evensong that the king will take spice and wine in his great chamber.... Then shall the gentleman usher bring thither the esquire, and especially the king’s server (officer who set, removed, tasted, &c.) to bring the king’s spice plate.... And when the usher cometh to the cellar door, charge a squire for the body with the king’s own cup.’ This is simply a specimen of pages of like directions.

[Pg 128]

Entries in the Household Book of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, furnish details of a nobleman’s style of living at the beginning of the sixteenth century. On the Feast of the Nativity 290 persons dined and supped at Thornbury Castle, on which occasion were consumed eleven pottles and three quarts of Gascony wine, and 171 flagons of ale. This was not excessive for the times, the vices of which are admirably pictured in William Dunbar’s remarkable poem, The Dance. He describes a procession of the seven deadly sins in the lower regions. Gluttony brings up the rear:—

Then the foul monster Gluttony,
Of wame [belly] insatiable and gredy,
To dance he did him dress:
Him followed mony foul dronkart,
With can and collop, cup and quart,
In surfett and excess.
Fully many a wasteful wally-drag [outcast],
With wames [bellies] unwieldable did forth wag,
In creische [fat] that did incress:
Drink, aye, they cried, with mony a gape,
The fiends gave them hait leid to lap [hot lead to lap]
Their levery [reward] was no less.

The Household Book of the Earl of Northumberland is another capital illustration of the table life of the higher nobles. In reading the estimates, it must be taken into account that the household consisted of 166 persons. The allowance of grain per month gave 250 quarters of malt at 4s., two hogsheads to the quarter. This allowance may be thought to speak more for the temperance of the retainers than for the liberality of the lord. The wine was dispensed more liberally. An annual consumption showed ten tuns and two hogsheads of Gascony. A breakfast bill of fare appears thus: ‘Breakfastis for my lorde and my ladye. Furst a loof[Pg 129] of brede in trenchers, two manchets, one quart of bere, a quart of wine, half a chyne of muton, ells a chyne of beif boyled.’

A searching visiting of monasteries, indeed of all ecclesiastics within the dominion, was entrusted by Henry VII. to his vicar-general and vice-gerent, Thomas Cromwell. The scrutiny was intended mainly for the monasteries. The eighty-six articles of instruction compass a large field of minute inquiry. The commissioners were doubtless much indebted to monastic factions and animosities for some of the information which they gained. The scrutiny revealed terrible irregularities in some cases, prominent among which were the vices of gluttony and drunkenness. The result of this official investigation was the dissolution of the smaller monasteries. And thus good was effected; for, however much we discount the charges alleged, for the reasons above suggested, the lives of the inmates had become a far and wide scandal. Innocent VIII. sent a bull to Archbishop Morton in 1490, in which he informs him that he had heard with great grief from persons worthy of credit, that the monks of all the different orders in England had grievously degenerated, that giving themselves up to a reprobate sense they led dissolute lives. But the archbishop was fully aware of the evil, for in 1487 he had convened a synod of the prelates and clergy of his province, for the reformation of the manners of the clergy. In this convocation many of the London clergy were accused of spending their whole time in taverns. But there is no disguising the fact that profuseness of living was countenanced in the highest places of the Church; which, if it does not excuse, at any rate explains the excesses of the ‘i[Pg 130]nferior clergy.’ As late as 1504, when William Warham was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury, a feast was given for which was procured—fifty-four quarters of wheat, six pipes of red wine, four of claret, one of choice white, one of white for the kitchen, one butt of Malmsey, one pipe of wine of Osey, two tierces of Rhenish wine, four tuns of London ale, six of Kentish ale, and twenty of English beer.

It is curious how many of our tavern signs originated from incidents in the history of our sovereigns. The ‘Red Dragon’ was in compliment to Henry VII., who adopted this device for his standard at Bosworth Field. It was in old times the ensign of the famous Cadwaller, the last of the British kings, from whom the Tudors descended. The field of Bosworth furnished matter for another sign. The hawthorn-bush crowned was adopted by Henry VII. in allusion to the crown of his predecessor which was found hidden in a hawthorn-bush after the battle. But the seventh Henry escaped the honour (?) conferred upon his successor and perpetuated, of being immortalised by his portrait as Bluff Harry on scores of tavern signboards. It is stated in the History of Signboards that at Hever, in Kent, one of these rude portraits of Henry VIII. may be seen. Near this village the Bolleyn, or Bullen, family held possessions, and old people in the district still show where Henry used to meet Anne Bolleyn. Anyhow, years after the sad death of Anne, the village ale-house had for its sign, ‘Bullen Butchered.’ When the place changed hands, the name of the house was altered to the ‘Bull and Butcher,’ which sign existed till recently, but was altered at the request of the clergyman of the parish, who suggested the ‘King’s Head,’ and the village painter was com[Pg 131]missioned to make the alteration. The bluff features of the monarch were drawn; and in his hands was placed an axe, and so the sign remains at present.

In the collection of ordinances for the Royal Household we have an account of the ceremony of wasselling, as was practised at Court on Twelfth Night in the reign of Henry VII. The ancient custom of pledging each other out of the same cup had given place to the use of different cups. Moreover, ‘when the steward came in at the doore with the wassel, he was to crye three tymes, “Wassel, wassel, wassel,” and then the chappell (chaplain) was to answere with a songe.’ The custom of ‘toasting’ was in full force. Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII. contains several such allusions. Thus in act i., scene 4, the king exclaims—

Let’s be merry.
Good my lord cardinal, I have a half a dozen healths
To drink to these fair ladies.

Malmsey (pronounced by Shakespeare to be ‘fulsom’) competed with sack to be the favourite drink of the period; it was the only sweet wine specified in the ordinances of the household of Henry VIII. Malmsey was a strangely generic term for sweet wines from almost every vine-growing district. Candia, Chios, Lesbos, Tenedos, Tyre, Italy, Greece, Spain, all yielding the Malmsey, which we found to have proved so fatal to

Maudlin Clarence in his Malmsey butt.

Some believe it to have been first made at Napoli de Malvasia, in the Morea. Certainly the principal part of that which was so extensively imported in the middle ages came from the Archipelago. When subject to Venetian rule Candia and Cyprus supplied[Pg 132] Europe with their finest wines, the former island alone being said to have exported 200,000 casks of Malmsey annually.

Sack is another generic term for sweet wine,[87] and is not of necessity, as Nares describes it, ‘the same wine which is now named sherry;’ a statement which the rest of his own remarks contradict. Thus we find not only sherry-sack, but canary-sack, Malaga-sack, rumney-sack, palm-sack, &c.[88] The derivation of the word is much disputed; the town Xique, and the Spanish saco, a bag, have been suggested; but sack, also written seck, is undoubtedly the French sec, the Latin siccus, dry. It continued a popular wine for another two centuries, as we find from Tom D’Urfey’s ballad on the ‘Virtues of sack’ (1719). Redding states that the term ‘sack’ was applied to sweet and dry wines of canary, Xeres, or Malaga. Vines are said to have been first planted in the Canary Islands in the reign of Charles V., imported thither from the Rhine. Canary was much drunk formerly; the bibbers of it were dubbed ‘canary-birds,’ and the wine ‘canary-sacke.’[89] An old writer growls, ‘sacke is their chosen nectar; they love it better than their own souls; they will never leave off sacke, until they have sackt out all their silver; nay, nor then neither, for they will pawn their crouds for more sacke.’

The following receipt for beer, taken from Arnold’s [Pg 133]Chronicle, published in 1521, reminds that by this time hops were in use, ‘ten quarters of malt, 2 of wheat, 2 of oats, with 11lbs. of hops for making 11 barrels of single beer.’ This is the first I can find with hops as an ingredient. The old distich, of which there are two versions,

Hops, reformation, bays, and beer,
Came into England all in one year,


Hops and turkeys, carp and beer,
Came into England all in a year,[90]

would fix the introduction of hops to the time of Henry VIII. But there is a difficulty here, inasmuch as the use of this plant in brewing was known long before, and Henry VIII., who interfered in everything from religion to beer-barrels, forbade his subjects to put hops in their ale.

Spirits were beginning to acquire a reputation in England. Numbers of Irish settled in Pembrokeshire in this reign, and employed themselves in the distillation of their national beverage, usquebaugh, which had a large sale in this country.

But, to pass from the drinks to the drinkers, the habits of Henry VIII. are well known. He was constantly intoxicated, and kept the lowest company. His right hand, Wolsey, was actually put in the stocks by Sir Amias Powlett, when he was Rector of Lymington, for drunkenness at a neighbouring fair. Why should not such punishments be revived as either the stocks or the ‘drunkard’s cloak’? In this latter, drunkards were paraded through the town, wearing a tub instead of a cloak, a hole being made for the head to pass thro[Pg 134]ugh, and two small ones in the sides, through which the hands were drawn.

Experience is a good master. No one could look after the monks better than Wolsey. It appears that a system of misericords had found place in monasteries. These misericords were exoneration from duties granted by the Abbots to the monks. This privilege in course of time they abused. The Augustinian canons absented themselves from the choir and cloister, sometimes for whole weeks; whereupon Wolsey ordered that these canons should recreate themselves not singly, but in a number together, supervised by the superior, and accompanied; that they should repair not to the towns, villages, and taverns, but to sunny places near their houses; that they should not go to houses of laymen to eat and drink without leave, but carry their provisions with them.

One of the most magnificent pageants on record welcomed Anne Boleyn to the city of London in 1533. At Gracechurch Corner was erected ‘the Mount Parnassus, with the fountain of Helicon.’ It was formed of white marble. Four streams rose an ell high and met in a cup above the fountain which ran copiously till night with Rhenish wine. At the great Conduit in Cheap, a fountain ran continuously, at one end white wine, at the other claret, all the afternoon. Anne had been maid of honour at court. The household books of the kings describe the allowance and rules of the table of the ladies of the household. A marvellous picture of the times! A chine of beef, a manchet, and a chet loaf was a breakfast for the three. To these was added a gallon of ale.

[Pg 135]

Gascon wine was now in favour for court consumption. The Losely MSS. supply the items of Sir Thomas Carden’s purchases for Anne of Cleves’ cellar.[91] Among these were 3 hogsheads of Gascoigne wine at 3l. each; 10 gallons of Malmsey at 20d. a gallon; 11 gallons of Muscadel at 2s. 2d. a gallon; and 10 gallons of sack at 16d. a gallon. A pipe of Gascon wine was also the bribe which Lady Lisle sent to the Countess of Rutland, to secure her good offices in obtaining the post of maid of honour for her daughter, Miss Basset.

We are able to form a rough estimate of the quantity of liquor kept in stock at this time, from a return which was made by order, on the occasion of the visit of the Emperor Charles V. to the king. The city authorities appear to have been afraid of being drunk dry by the swarming Flemings in the emperor’s train. To avoid such a calamity, a return was made of all the wine to be found at the eleven wine merchants and the twenty-eight principal taverns then in London; the sum total of which was 809 pipes.[92]

The corruptions of court life were fearlessly exposed by a contemporary, John Skelton, in his Bowge of Court. Bowge (bouche, mouth) denoted the courtier’s right of eating at the king’s expense. The Bowge of Court was an allegorical ship with court vices on board. Ecclesiastics in high places were mercilessly satirised in his Colin Clout, e.g. (a) their hurry from the house of God to get drink—

But when they have once caught
[Pg 136]Dominus vobiscum by the head,
Then run they in every stead (place),
God wot, with drunken nolls (heads),
Yet take they cure of souls.

(b) Their unconcern at the tragedy of the Saviour’s passion—

Christ by cruelty
Was nailed upon a tree;
He paid a bitter pension
For manne’s redemption,
He drank eysell and gall
To redeem us withal.
But sweet hippocras ye drink,
With ‘Let the cat wink!’

(c) Their logomachies under the excitement of drink—

They make interpretation
Of an awkward fashion,
And of the prescience
Of Divine essence,
And what hypostasis
Of Christe’s manhood is.
Such logic men will chop,
And in their fury hop
When the good ale-sop
Doth dance in their foretop.

If Sir T. Elyot (1534) was correct in speaking of temperance as a new word, the virtue was old enough, even though the practice was rare. In the most corrupt times virtue has ever had its witnesses, even as the epoch of the dissolute Henry had its Sir David Lindsay, and its Earl of Surrey. The latter, amongst the means to attain a happy life, could name

The mean diet, no delicate fare;
True wisdom joined with simpleness;
[Pg 137]The night discharged of all care;
Where wine the wit may not oppress.

The legislation of this reign did little more than affect details. The repeal of a certain law is worthy of note. From a remarkable clause in a statute of Henry III. it might be supposed that England was much fallen from the flourishing condition of preceding times. It had been enacted in the time of Edward II. that no magistrate, in town or borough, who by his office ought to keep assize, should during the continuance of his magistracy sell, either in wholesale or retail, any wine or victuals. This law seemed equitable in order to prevent fraud in fixing the assize. It was in this reign repealed. The following piece of legislation affected the price of wines: By 23 Henry VIII., c. 7, the wines of Gascony and Guienne were forbidden to be sold above eightpence the gallon, and the retail price of ‘Malmeseis, romeneis, sakkes, and other swete wynes,’ was fixed at 12d. the gallon, 6d. the pottle, 3d. the quart, and directions were given to the authorities ‘to set the prices of all kynde of wines in grosse.’ The merchants, however, evaded or neglected the law and raised the price; this aroused the vintners, who presented a remonstrance, in answer to which it was enacted that the commissioners appointed previously should have the discretionary power of increasing or diminishing the prices of wines sold in gross or by retail, as occasion should require.

By an Act of 1531, every brewer was forbidden to take more than such prices and rates as should be thought sufficient, at the discretion of Justices of Peace within every shire, or by the mayor and sheriffs in a city.

An effort, only partly successful, was made at this time to reduce holidays, which had degenerated into occasions of excess. Complaint was made that the number of such days was excessively increased, to the[Pg 138] detriment of civil government and secular affairs; and that the great irregularities and licentiousness which had crept into these festivals by degrees, especially in the churches, chapels, and churchyards, were found injurious to piety, virtue, and good manners, therefore both statutes and canons were made to regulate and restrain them, and by an act of convocation, passed in 1536, their number was reduced.[93]

Perhaps nothing strikes one so much in connection with intemperance in pre-reformation time as the abuses that gathered about religious ceremonies. Everything of the kind was made a public occasion of excess. At weddings especially was this notorious. Writing upon the subject, a 16th century author observes, ‘Early in the morning the wedding people begynne to excead in superfluous eatyng and drinkyng, and when they come to the preachynge they are halfe droncke, some all together.’[94]

It is not to be wondered at. The court was rotten, and its influence filtered then, as always, to the masses. Even the pledge of temperance introduced on the continent about this time was no safeguard. It is told how Henry himself contrived to make an envoy of the German court, who was an associate of a temperate order, break his pledge, assuring him that if his master would only visit England he would not lack boon companions.

Foreigners visited England. They came, they saw, they reported. A certain Master Stephen Perlin, a French physician who was in England just after Henry’s death, records for the benefit of his countrymen: ‘The English, one with the other are joyous, and are very fond of music; they are also great drinkers. Now remember if you please that in this country they generally use vessels of silver when they drink wine; and they will [Pg 139]say to you usually at table, “Goude chere,” and they will also say to you more than one hundred times, “Drind oui,” and you will reply to them in their language, “I plaigui” (I pledge you).’

One of our own writers, Philip Stubbes, who was ridiculed by Nash for ‘pretending to anatomize abuses and stubbe up sin by the rootes,’ asserts that the public-houses were crowded in London from morning to night with inveterate drunkards, whose only care appears to have been as to where they could obtain the best ale, so totally oblivious to all other things had they become.[95]

And what a flood of light is thrown not only on the universal drinking, but upon the respectability of the same, in the fact that a bishop, Bishop Still, a Bishop of Bath and Wells, and previously Master of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and Master also of Trinity, whose portrait still hangs in the College hall of the latter, should be the author of the following drinking song, which Warton calls the first Chanson à Boire of any merit in our language, and apologises for introducing a ballad convivial and ungodlie.

I cannot eate but lytle meate,
My stomacke is not good,
But sure I thinke that I can drinke
With him that wears a hood.
Though I go bare, take ye no care,
I nothing am a colde,
I stuff my skyn so full within,
Of joly good ale and olde.

Chorus. Backe and syde go bare, go bare,
Booth foote and hand go colde,
But belly, God send thee good ale ynoughe,
Whether it be new or olde.
[Pg 140]
I have no rost, but a nut brawne toste,
And a crab laid in the fyre;
A little breade shall do me steade,
Much breade I not desyre.
No frost nor snow, nor winde, I trowe,
Can hurt mee, if I wolde,
I am so wrapt and throwly lapt
Of joly good ale and olde.
Chorus. Backe and syde go bare, go bare, etc.

And Tyb my wife, that, as her lyfe,
Loveth well good ale to seeke,
Full oft drynkes shee, tyll ye may see
The teares run downe her cheeke.
Then doth she trowle to me the bowle,
Even as a mault-worme sholde,
And sayth, sweete harte, I took my parte
Of this joly good ale and olde.
Chorus. Backe and syde go bare, go bare, etc.

Now let them drynke, tyll they nod and winke,
Even as goode fellowes sholde doe,
They shall not mysse to have the blisse
Good ale doth bring men to;
And all poore soules that have scowred bowles,
Or have them lustily trolde,
God save the lives of them and their wives,
Whether they be yonge or olde.
Chorus. Backe and syde go bare, go bare, etc.[96]

Is there any wonder that his ‘stomacke was not good’? Imagine some of his successors in that See having composed it! Fancy the author of ‘Glory to Thee, my God, this night’ (Bishop Ken), having written it! Mark, too, the insinuation of the fourth line as to the clergy of the period! The authorship is vouched for by Thomas Park. The song begins the second act of ‘Gammer Gurton’s Needle,’ a comedy written in 1551, [Pg 141]and acted at Christ’s College, Cambridge. Warton mentions that in the title of the old edition it is said to have been written ‘by Mr. S., Master of Artes.’ Which, being interpreted is, Still; afterwards Bishop of Bath and Wells.

It was about this time that that pernicious habit arose of transacting business over drink. We find constant allusions in the Tudor period to the principal men of the boroughs in this manner concluding a bargain. Thus we find an entry of Mr. William Tudbold, Mayor of Lyme, 1551, to this effect:—’Item, paid at Robert Davey‘s when we new agreed with Whytte the mason, vi d.’

These taverns were some of them kept by the clergy. Bishop Burnet states that so pillaged were the ecclesiastics of their property, that many clergymen were obliged for a subsistence to turn carpenters or tailors, and some kept ale-houses.

Hitherto there had been no civil legislation whatever against drunkenness. The crime is not mentioned in the Statute Book till the fifth year of Edward VI. From this time we shall find a number of statutes framed for the purpose of its prevention or punishment.

The Act, 5th and 6th Edward, c. 25, is entitled, ‘An Acte for Keepers of Ale-houses to be bounde by Recognizances.’ The following is a brief epitome of the Act:—Forasmuch as intolerable hurts and troubles to the commonwealth do daily grow and increase through such abuses and disorders as are had and used in common ale-houses and other houses called tippling-houses, it is enacted that Justices of Peace can abolish ale-houses at their discretion, and that no tippling-house can be opened without a licence. That these houses be supervised by the taking surety for the maintenance of good[Pg 142] order and rule, and for the suppression of gaming. Moreover, special scrutiny was made into the forfeiting of such recognisances. Breaches of the Act were punished with imprisonment and fine.

Two years later, an Act was passed to avoid the great price and excess of wine. ‘For the avoiding of many inconveniences much evil rule and common resort of mis-ruled persons used and frequented in many taverns, of late newly set up in very great numbers in back lanes, corners, and suspicious places within the city of London, and in divers other towns and villages within this realm,’ it was enacted, subject to certain exceptions of rank and income, that none should be allowed to keep any vessel of Gascony, Guienne, or Rochelle wine for the use of his family exceeding 10 gallons under forfeiture of 10l.; none could be retailed without a licence, and only two taverns could be licensed in a borough, with the following exceptions, forty in London, three in Westminster, six in Bristol, four in Canterbury, Cambridge, Chester, Exeter, Gloucester, Hull, Newcastle, and Norwich; three in Colchester, Hereford, Ipswich, Lincoln, Oxford, Salisbury, Shrewsbury, Southampton, Winchester, and Worcester. The retail price was fixed, and none could retail wines to be drunk within their respective houses.

Vastly important was this legislation; its consequences were manifest, and would have been much more so, had not so much of it been permitted to become a dead letter. At any rate it paved the way for the very important Act of Philip and Mary in the Irish Parliament which renders obligatory a licence for the manufacture of Aqua Vitæ, and which brought about so great a reduction in the use of ardent spirits in that country.

[Pg 143]

The consort of Queen Mary soon found out the favourite English drink. Philip courted popularity. He gave it out that he was come to England to live like an Englishman, and in proof thereof drank some ale for the first time at a public dinner, gravely commending it as the wine of the country. Queen Mary at the time of her coronation was single, so Philip missed the usual pageant, the running of the conduits at Cornhill and Cheapside with wine, and the oration at St. Paul’s School, of Heywood, the Queen’s favourite poet, who ‘sat under a vine.’ It is to be hoped that Heywood made himself more intelligible than in some of his enigmatical epigrams, of which that on ‘Measure’ is a specimen.

Measure is a merry meane,
Which filde with noppy drinke,
When merry drinkers, drinke off clene.
Then merrily they winke.

Measure is a merry meane,
But I meane measures gret,
Where lippes to litely pitchers weane,
Those lippes they scantly wet.

The pastoral visit of Bishop Ridley to Queen Mary reminds us of a curious feature of old English hospitality, that of drinking before leaving. Persons of quality were either taken into the cellar for a draught of ale or wine fresh from the cask, as was the Duke of Buckingham into Wolsey’s cellar, or it was brought to them last thing as they mounted their horses, and was called from this the stirrup-cup.

Boy, lead our horses on when we get up,
Wee’l have with you a merry stirrup cupp.[Pg 144]

Ridley was introduced to the cellar by Sir Thomas Wharton, the steward of the household. When he had drunk, he said he had done wrong to drink under a roof where God’s Word was rejected.

The opinions that have been ventured upon the relative sobriety of the Elizabethan period are as conflicting as they are various. The most reliable contemporary who can be cited in favour of the sobriety of the period is William Harrison, whose opinion may be gathered from two passages of his work. He says, ‘I might here talke somewhat of the great silence that is used at the tables of the honourable and wiser sort generallie over all the realme, likewise the moderate eating and drinking that is daily seene, and finallie of the regard that such one hath to keepe himselfe from note of surfetting and drunkennesse (for which cause salt meat, except beefe, bacon, and porke, are not anie whit esteemed, and yet these three may be much powdered). But as in the rehearsall thereof I should commend the nobleman, merchant, and frugall artificer, so I could not cleare the meaner sort of husbandmen of verie much bobbling (except it be here and there some od yeoman), with whom he is thought to be the meriest that talketh of most ribaldraie, or the wisest man that speakest fastest among them, and now and then surfeiting and drunkennesse, which they rather fall into for want of heed-taking, than wilfullie following or delighting in those errours of set mind and purpose. It may be that divers of them living at home with hard and pinching diet, small drinks, and some of them having scarce enough of that, are soonest overtaken when they come unto such banquets, howbeit they take it generallie as no small disgrace if they happen to be cup-shotten, so that is a grefe unto them, though now sans remédie sith the thing is done and pas[Pg 145]t.’ The passage that follows certainly suggests that in some respects our ancestors were wiser than their descendants:—

Drink is usually filled in goblets, jugs, bols of silver, in noblemen’s houses, all of which notwithstanding are seldom set upon the table, but each one, as necessitie urgeth, calleth for a cup of such drinke as him listeth to drinke: so that, when he have tasted of it, he delyvereth the cup againe to some of the standers bye, who, making it cleane by pouring out the drinke that remayneth, restoreth it to the cupboard from whence he fetched the same. By this device much idle tippling is cut off; for if the full pots shall continuallie stand at the elbowe or near the trencher, divers will alwaies be dealing with them, whereas they now drinke seldome, and onelie when necessitie urgeth, and so avoid the note of grete-drynkinge or often troubling the servitors with filling their bolls.

But there is a vast mass of evidence on the other side that must be examined before the conflicting judgments can be put into the scale. And first, the preambles to the Acts of Parliament testify that the national taste was intensifying. Thus the preamble to Act 1 Eliz. c. ii. states that of late years much greater quantity of sweet wines had been imported into the kingdom than had been usual in former times. Again, in 1597, an Act was passed to restrain the excessive use of malt. The preamble asserts that greater quantity of malt is daily made than either in times past or now is needful. It must be remembered, however, that during the time of Elizabeth the export of beer had become a valuable branch of commerce. The queen herself, in her right of purveyance, a prerogative then inherent in the crown, caused quantities of beer so obtained to be sold on the Continent for her own emolument. Further than this, honest efforts were made in some directions to keep down the home consumption. For instance, it is stated the Lord Keeper Egerton, in his charge to the[Pg 146] judges when going on circuit in 1602, bade them ascertain, for the queen’s information, how many ale-houses the justices of the peace had pulled down, so that the good justices might be rewarded and the evil removed.

One more Act of this reign must be noticed, the exact or full purport of which might be mistaken. It was nominally against the danger of fire, but in reality it was intended to prevent tipplers from having the means of conducting furtive brewings. The Act bears the date of 1590. By 22 Eliz. it was enacted ‘that no innkeeper, common brewer, or typler shall keep in their houses any fewel, as straw or verne, which shall not be thought requisite, and being warned of the constable to rid the same within one day, subpœna, xxs.’

In the next place we must take into account the extraordinary variety of wines now drunk. Holinshed observes, ‘As all estates doo exceed herin, I meane for number of costlie dishes, so these forget not to use the like excesse in wine, insomuch as there is no kind to be had, whereof at great meetings there is not some store to be had’ (Holinshed, Chronicles). The writer further speaks of the importation of 20,000 or 30,000 tuns a year, notwithstanding the constant restraints put upon it. After detailing about fifty-six sorts of ‘small wines,’ such as claret, &c., he speaks of ‘the thirtie kinds of Italian, Grecian, Spanish, Canarian, &c., whereof vernage (a sweet Italian wine, so called from the thick-skinned grape or vernaccia used in its manufacture), cate, piment (vin cuit), raspis, muscadell, romnie, bastard, tire (Italian, from the grape tirio), oseie, caprike, clarcie, and malmeseie, are not least of all accompted of because of their strength and valure.’

[Pg 147]

The monasteries were noted for having the best wine and ale, the latter of which they specially brewed for themselves. The author just quoted mentions that the best wine was called theologicum, because it was had ‘from the cleargie and religious men, unto whose houses manie of the laitie would often send for bottels filled with the same, being sure that they would neither drinke nor be served of the worst, or such as was anie waies mingled or brued by the vintner. Naie, the merchant would have thought that his soule should have gone streight waie to the devill, if he should have served them with other than the best.’

Besides all these kinds of wines, of which the strongest were most in request, distilled liquors were manufactured in England, the principal of which were rosa solis and aqua vitæ. Ale and beer were also in request. There was single beer, or small ale, and double beer, also double-double beer, dagger ale, and bracket. But the favourite drink was a kind of ale called huf-cap, which was highly intoxicating; thus in Harrison’s England we read, ‘These men hale at huf-cap till they be red as cockes, and little wiser than their combs.’ And again, the Water Poet,—

There’s one thing more I had almost forgot,
And this is it, of ale-houses and innes,
Wine marchants, vintners, brewers, who much wins
By others losing, I say more or lesse,
Who sale of huf-cap liquor doe professe.

This drink (huf-cap) was also called mad-dog, angels’ food, and dragon’s milk. The gentry brewed for their own consumption a generous ale which they did not bring to table till it was two years old. This was called March Ale, from the month in which it was brewed. Al[Pg 148]e was often richly compounded with various dainties. Often it was warmed, and mixed with sugar and spices; sometimes with a toast; sometimes with a roasted crab or apple, making the beverage known as Lamb’s wool.

Sometimes lurk I in a gossip’s bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab;
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And on her wither’d dew-lap pour the ale.[97]

Now crowne the bowle
With gentle lambs-wooll,
Add sugar, and nutmegs, and ginger.[98]

The strength of the ale as commonly sold transpires from many incidental notices in the history of the time. Thus Leicester writes to Burleigh that at a certain place in her Majesty’s travels ‘there was not one drop of good drink for her.... We were fain to send forthwith to London, and to Kenilworth, and divers other places where ale was; her own here was so strong as there was no man able to drink it.’

The sobriety of this queen has never been called in question, although one author, in commenting on the Kenilworth pageant, remarks that many such entertainments were accepted by this queen, who professed to restrain luxury and extravagance, and issued sumptuary edicts, but did not ennoble precept by example. This is ill-natured. It is incidental to high position to accept a profusion of hospitality, for which it can scarcely be held responsible. And unquestionably on this occasion the hospitality was profuse. It is stated that no less than 365 hogsheads of beer were drunk at it, in addition to the daily complement of 16 hogsheads of wine. The entertainment lasted nineteen days. Notwithstanding [Pg 149]such exceptional receptions, there is no doubt that the queen did bring influence to bear in refining the manners of her court; and among the many changes effected, none were more apparent than in the festive entertainments of the time. Harrison draws particular attention to the fact that the swarms of jesters, tumblers, and harpers, that formerly had been indispensable to the banquet-room, were now discarded. He further mentions another valuable change of custom. The wine and other liquors were not placed upon the tables with the dishes, but on a sideboard, and each person called as occasion required for a flagon of the wine he wanted, by which means ‘much idle tippling was avoided.’ When the company had done feeding, what remained was sent to the servants, and when these were satisfied the fragments were distributed among the poor who waited without the gate.

To the minstrel these innovations were practically ruin. He who had been in past times the soul of the tournament, and a welcome guest at every banquet, was now a street ballad-singer, or ale-house fiddler, chanting forth from benches and barrel-heads to an audience consisting of a few gaping rustics, or a parcel of idle boys; and, as if the degradation of these despised and unhoused favourites of former days had not been enough, the stern justice of the law made them doubly vile, obliging them to skulk into corners, and perform their merry offices in fear and trembling. Minstrels were now classed in the statute with rogues and vagabonds, and made liable to the same pains and penalties. Already it might be said,

[Pg 150]

No longer courted and caress’d,
High placed in hall, a welcome guest,
He pour’d, to lord and lady gay,
The unpremeditated lay:
Old times were changed, old manners gone.[99]

What has just been observed of the queen, applies to more than one of her renowned courtiers. Burleigh was a man given to hospitality, occasionally to conviviality, if there is any truth in the lines known as The Islington Garland, which thus describes him and his friend,—

Here gallant gay Essex, and burly Lord Burleigh,
Sate late at their revels, and came to them early,

alluding to the inn at Islington. But rather than read the man in an ephemeral lampoon we would turn to his sole literary production, and find the impress of his mind in his work addressed to his son Robert Cecil, entitled Precepts or Directions for the Well Ordering and Carriage of a Man’s Life, in which he offers the following advice:—

Touching the guiding of thy house, let thy hospitality be moderate, and, according to the means of thy estate, rather plentiful than sparing, but not costly. For I never knew any man grow poor by keeping an orderly table. But some consume themselves through secret vices, and their hospitality bears the blame. But banish swinish drunkards out of thine house, which is a vice impairing health, consuming much and makes no show. I never heard praise ascribed to the drunkard, but for the well-bearing of his drink, which is a better commendation for a brewer’s horse or a drayman, than for either a gentleman or a serving-man.

A more striking lay homily than even this upon the [Pg 151]evils of drink is to be found in the writings of another notable of the period, Sir Walter Raleigh. His words are letters of gold.

Take especial care that thou delight not in wine, for there was not any man that came to honour or preferment that loved it; for it transformeth a man into a beast, decayeth health, poisoneth the breath, destroyeth natural heat, brings a man’s stomach to an artificial heat, deformeth the face, rotteth the teeth, and, to conclude, maketh a man contemptible, soon old, and despised of all wise and worthy men; hated in thy servants, in thyself, and companions; for it is a bewitching and infectious vice. A drunkard will never shake off the delight of beastliness; for the longer it possesses a man, the more he will delight in it; and the older he groweth, the more he will be subject to it; for it dulleth the spirits, and destroyeth the body, as ivy doth the old tree; or as the worm that engendereth in the kernel of a nut. Take heed, therefore, that such a cureless canker pass not thy youth, nor such a beastly infection thy old age; for then shall all thy life be but as the life of a beast, and after thy death thou shalt only leave a shameful infamy to thy posterity, who shall study to forget that such a one was their father.

Such is the language of the man who founded the ‘Mermaid’ in Bread Street, the first of the long succession of clubs started in London,[100] and connected with which were such as Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Beaumont, and Fletcher. And, coming from such a man, it is convincing that the vitiation of the national taste had forced itself upon common observation, and, of course, engraved itself upon the pages of history. Thus Camden, speaking of the year 1581 (though the earlier part of his observation displays imperfect acquaintance with previous history), remarks, ‘The English, who had[Pg 152] hitherto, of all the Northern nations, shown themselves the least addicted to immoderate drinking, and been commended for their sobriety, first learned in these wars with the Netherlands to swallow a large quantity of intoxicating liquor, and to destroy their own health by drinking that of others.’ And as a confirmation of the latter part of his assertion, it may be noticed that the barbarous terms formerly used in drinking matches are of Dutch, German, or Danish origin.[101]

To the same effect the chronicler Baker observes that during the Dutch war the English learnt to be drunkards, and brought the vice so far to overspread the kingdom that laws were fain to be enacted for repressing it. The satirist Tom Nash, who lived at this time, describes, as only he could, the various classes of drunkards as they presented themselves to his observation:—‘The first is ape-drunk, and he leaps and sings and hollows and danceth for the heavens; the second is lyon-drunk, and he flings the pot about the house, breaks the glass windows with his dagger, and is apt to quarrel.... The third is swine-drunk, heavy, lumpish, and sleepy, and cries for a little more drink and a few more clothes; the fourth is sheep-drunk, wise in his own conceit when he cannot bring forth a right word; the fifth is maudlen-drunk, when a fellow will weep for kindness in the midst of his drink.... The sixth is martin-drunk, when a man is drunk, and drinks himself sober ere he stir. The seventh is goat-drunk, when in his drunkenness he hath no mind but on lechery. The eighth is fox-drunk, as many of the Dutchmen be, which will never bargain but when they are drunk. All these species, and more, I[Pg 153] have seen practised in one company and at one sitting.’

The various methods of raising money for the Church and poor have already been examined under the heading of Ales. It will be necessary in forming the estimate of manners at this time to trace how the system developed, The use and abuse will be both apparent. For the use we turn to the Survey of Cornwall,[102] where we read that:—

For the church ale two young men of the parish are yearely chosen by their last pregoers to be wardens, who, dividing the task, make collections among the parishioners of what provision it pleaseth them voluntarily to bestow. This they employ in brewing, baking, and other achates against Whitsuntide, upon which holy dayes the neighbours meet at the church-house, and there meetly feed on theire owne victuals, contributing some petty portion to the stock which by many smalls groweth to a meetly greatness, for there is entertained a kinde of emulation between the wardens, who by his graciousness in gathering, and good husbandry in expending, can best advance the churches profit. Besides, the neighbour parishes at those times lovingly visit one another, and this way frankly spend their money together. When the feast is ended the wardens yield in their account to the parishioners, and such money as exceedeth the disbursements is layd up in store to defray any extraordinary charges arising in the parish or imposed on them for the good of the country, or the prince’s service.

The next author to be cited gives both use and abuse; thus Philip Stubs (or Stubbes), who has been already quoted, after speaking of the contributions of malt by parishioners for church-ales, goes on to say:—

When this nippitatum (strong liquor), this huffe-cap as they call it, this nectar of life, is set abroach, well is he that can get the soonest to it, and spends the most at it, for he is [Pg 154]counted the godliest man of all the rest, and most in God’s favour, because it is spent upon his church forsooth. If all be true which they say, they bestow that money which is got thereby for the repaire of their churches and chappels; they buy bookes for the service, cupps for the celebration of the sacrament, &c.

Speaking of the manner of keeping wakes, he says they were the sources of ‘gluttonie and drunkenness,’ and that many spend more at one of these than in all the year besides.

For the unqualified abuse of such a system we turn to a sermon preached in the same reign (1570) at Blandford by William Kethe, from which it appears that these church-ales were kept on the Sunday, ‘which holy day,’ says he, ‘the multitudes call their revelyng day, which day is spent in bul-beatings, beare-beatings, bowlings, dicyng, cardyng, daunsynges, drunkenness, and whoredome.’[103]

Even this picture is utterly eclipsed by the ghastly description of the excesses at a church dedication festival, as given by the contemporary Naogeorgus:—

The dedication of the church is yerely had in minde,
With worship passing catholicke, and in a wond’rous kinde;
    *    *    *    *
Then sundrie pastimes do begin, and filthy daunces oft;
When drunkards they do lead the daunce with fray and bloody fight,
That handes and eares and head and face are torne in wofull plight.
The streames of bloud runne downe the armes, and oftentimes is seene
The carkasse of some ruffian slaine is left upon the greene.
Here many for their lovers sweete some dainty thing do true,
And many to the taverne goe and drinke for companie,
Whereat they foolish songs do sing, and noyses great do make;
Some in the meanewhile play at cardes, and some the dice do shake.
Their custome also is the priest into the house to pull,
Whom, when they have, they thinke their game accomplished at full;
He farre in noyse exceedes them all, and eke in drinking drye
[Pg 155]The cuppes, a prince he is.[104]

Such a description is of itself an ample justification of the censure of the clergy in the injunctions of Elizabeth, among which we find: ‘The clergy shall not haunt ale-houses or taverns, or spend their time idly at dice, cards, tables, or any other unlawful game.’

But amidst all these dissipated distractions, influences of a qualifying character were also at work. The powerful pen of Bacon was writing, ‘All the crimes on the earth do not destroy so many of the human race, nor alienate so much property, as drunkenness.’ George Gascoigne was holding up an honest old-fashioned mirror, true as steel, to the faults and vices of his countrymen.[105] In his curious treatise, the full title of which is ‘A Delicate Diet for Daintie Mouthde Droonkards; wherein the fowle abuse of common carousing and quaffing with heartie draughtes, is honestly admonished,’ he vigorously inveighs against the popular drinks: ‘We must have March Beere, dooble-dooble Beere, Dagger-Ale, Bragget, Renish wine, White-wine, French wine, Gascoyne wine, Sack, Hollocke, Canaria wine, Vino Greco, Vinum amabile, and al the wines that may be gotten. Yea, wine of itselfe is not sufficient; but Sugar, Limons, and sundry sortes of spices must be drowned therein.’ Spenser was teaching the virtues of temperance in that marvellous production in which chivalry and religion are so matchlessly blended, his Faery Queen. The second book contains the legend of Sir Guyon, or of Temperance. The knight is sent upon an adventure by the Fairy Queen, to bring captive to her court an enchantress named Acrasia, in whom is [Pg 156]imaged the vice of Intemperance. The various adventures which he meets with by the way are such as show the virtues and happy effects of temperance, or the ill consequences of intemperance. But before claiming for the sons of Rechab a patron in Spenser, it must be told that the same author in his Epithalamion harps on other strings. There we read:—

Pour out the wine without restraint or stay,
Pour not by cups but by the bellyful.
Pour out to all that wull,
And sprinkle all the posts and walls with wine,
That they may sweat and drunken be withal.

These are dissimilar strains to those of the good Sir Guyon,

In whom great rule of Temperance goodly doth appear.

And shall we here stop short? Certainly not. The Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare, offers many a caution to the falling and fallen. To attempt to quote him fully would be beside the present purpose. It must suffice to gather from his works five or six prominent reflections.[106]

I. The constant use of strong drink impairs its remedial effect.

Thus in the Tempest, act ii. scene 3, Stephano is made to say, ‘He shall taste of my bottle; if he have never drank wine afore, it will go near to remove his fit.’

II. That strict temperance is a source of health.

[Pg 157]

Thus in As You Like It, act ii. scene 3, Adam declares—

Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty;
For in my youth I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood,
Nor did not with unbashful forehead woo
The means of weakness and debility;
Therefore my age is as a lusty winter,
Frosty, but kindly.

III. That the Danes had an established character for deep drinking. Thus Hamlet, act i. scene 4:—

Hamlet. The king doth awake to-night and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassel, and the swaggering upspring reels;
And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his pledge.

Hor. Is it a custom?

Ham. Ay, marry, is’t;
But to my mind—though I am native here
And to the manner born—it is a custom
More honour’d in the breach than the observance.
This heavy-headed revel, east and west,
Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations:
They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition; and indeed it takes
From our achievements, though perform’d at height,
The pith and marrow of our attribute.

‘They clepe us drunkards.’ And well our Englishmen might, for in Queen Elizabeth’s time there was a Dane in London, of whom the following mention is made in a collection of characters, entitled Looke to it, for Ile stab ye (no date):—

You that will drinke Keynaldo unto deth,
The Dane that would carouse out of his boote.

[Pg 158]

Mr. W. Mason adds that ‘it appears from one of Howell’s letters, dated at Hamburg in the year 1632, that the then King of Denmark had not degenerated from his jovial predecessor. In his account of an entertainment given by his majesty to the Earl of Leicester, he tells us that the king, after beginning thirty-five toasts, was carried away in his chair, and that all the officers of the court were drunk.’

See also the Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. ii. p. 133, for the scene of drunkenness introduced into the court of James I. by the King of Denmark in 1606.

Roger Ascham, in one of his letters, mentions being present at an entertainment where the Emperor of Germany seemed in drinking to rival the King of Denmark: ‘The emperor,’ says he, ‘drank the best that ever I saw; he had his head in the glass five times as long as any of us, and never drank less than a good quart at once of Rhenish wine.’

IV. That Shakespeare regarded English drunkenness as influenced by our intercourse with the Low Countries. Thus, Merry Wives of Windsor, act ii. scene 2, Mistress Page calls Falstaff a Flemish drunkard. The Variorum Edition of 1803 has the following note:—

It is not without reason that this term of reproach is here used. Sir John Smythe, in Certain Discourses, &c., 4to. 1590, says that ‘the habit of drinking to excess was introduced into England from the low countries by some of our such men of warre within these very few years, whereof it is come to passe, that now-a-dayes there are very fewe feastes where our said men of warre are present, but that they do invite and procure all the companie, of what calling soever they be, to carowsing and quaffing; and, because they will not be denied their challenges, they, with many new conges, ceremonies, and reverences, drinke to the health of counsellors, and unto the health of their greatest friends both at home and abroad, in which exercise they never cease till they be deade drunke, or, as the Flemings[Pg 159] say, doot drunken.’ He adds, ‘And this aforesaid detestable vice hath, within these six or seven yeares, taken wonderful roote amongst our English nation, that in times past was wont to be of all other nations of christendome one of the soberest.’

V. That whatever the Danes were, the English were worse.

In Othello we have a terrible reputation. Thus:—

Act ii. scene 3. The double-dyed Iago has tempted honest foolish Cassio to drink with him, in spite of Cassio’s very honest confession, ‘I have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking: I could well wish courtesy would invent some other custom of entertainment.’ But Cassio is weak. On Iago’s urgent pressing, he says, ‘I’ll do it; but it dislikes me.’ He had just before remarked, ‘I have drunk but one cup to-night, and that was craftily qualified too, and behold what innovation it makes here [striking his forehead]: I am unfortunate in the infirmity, and dare not task my weakness with any more.’

They passed to the revel. Iago, who is seasoned, calls out:—

Some wine, ho!
And let me the canakin clink, clink;
And let me the canakin clink:
A soldier’s a man;
A life’s but a span;
Why, then, let a soldier drink.
Some wine, boys. [Wine brought in.

Cassio. ‘Fore heaven, an excellent song.

Iago. I learned it in England, where (indeed) they are most potent in potting. Your Dane, your German, and your swag-bellied Ho[Pg 160]llander,—Drink, oh!—are nothing to your English.

Cassio. Is your Englishman so expert in his drinking?

Iago. Why he drinks you with facility your Dane dead drunk; he sweats not to overthrow your Almain; he gives your Hollander a vomit ere the next pottle can be filled.

Cassio. To the health of our general!

Mon. I am for it, lieutenant, and I’ll do you justice.

Iago. O sweet England!

How like is human nature at all periods! Iago’s drinking song reminds us of the half-gay, half-melancholy campaigning song, said to have been composed by General Wolfe, and sung by him at the mess-table on the eve of the storming of Quebec, in which he fell so gloriously:—

Why, soldiers, why
Should we be melancholy, boys?
Why, soldiers, why,
Whose business ‘tis to die?
For should next campaign
Send us to Him who made us, boys,
We’re free from pain;
But should we remain,
A bottle and kind landlady
Will set all right again.

This song was a favourite with Sir Walter Scott—see Washington Irving’s Abbotsford and Newstead.

VI. The bane of ardent spirits and of that to which they conduce—intemperance. Thus Othello, act ii. scene 3:—

O, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should, with joy, revel, pleasure, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!

And again—

O thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee—devil!

[Pg 161]


Every inordinate cup is unblessed, and the ingredient is a devil.

Two customs which are alluded to in Shakespeare’s works are worthy of note. Merry Wives of Windsor, act ii. scene 2.

Bard. Sir John, there’s one Master Brook below would fain speak with you, and be acquainted with you; and hath sent your worship a morning’s draught of sack.

According to Malone, it seems to have been a common custom at taverns, in our author’s time, to send presents of wine from one room to another, either as a memorial of friendship, or (as in the present instance) by way of introduction to acquaintance. Of the existence of this practice the following anecdote of Ben Jonson and Bishop Corbet furnishes a proof: Ben Jonson was at a tavern, and in comes Bishop Corbet (but not so then) into the next room. Ben Jonson calls for a quart of raw wine, and gives it to the tapster. “Sirrah,” says he, “carry this to the gentleman in the next chamber, and tell him, I sacrifice my service to him.” The fellow did, and in those words. “Friend,” says Dr. Corbet, “I thank him for his love; but ‘pr’ythe tell him from me that he is mistaken; for sacrifices are always burnt”’ (Merry Passages and Jeasts, MSS. Harl. 6395).

This practice was continued as late as the Restoration. In the Parliamentary History, vol. xxii. p. 114, we have the following passage from Dr. Price’s Life of General Monk: ‘I came to the Three Tuns before Guildhall, where the general had quartered two nights before. I entered the tavern with a servant and portmanteau, and asked for a room, which I had scarce got into, but wine followed me as a present from some citizens, desiring leave to drink their morning’s draught with me.’

The other custom to be noted is that of taking night-caps[Pg 162]. Macbeth, act i. scene 2.

Lady Macbeth. I have drugged their possets.

It appears from this passage as well as from many others in our old dramatic performances, that it was the general custom to take possets just before bed-time. So in the first part of King Edward IV., by Heywood: ‘thou shalt be welcome to beef and bacon, and perhaps a bag-pudding; and my daughter Nell shall pop a posset upon thee when thou goest to bed.’ Macbeth has already said:—

Go bid thy mistress, when my drink is ready,
She strike upon the bell.

Lady Macbeth has also just observed:—

That which hath made them drunk, hath made me bold.

And in The Merry Wives of Windsor Mrs. Quickly promises Jack Rugby a posset at night. This custom is also mentioned by Froissart.

One more quotation I cannot refrain from adding. It is not from Shakespeare, but from one who had studied him, and who, if nothing else, could certainly parody the ‘seven ages of man’ (As You Like It, act ii. scene 7).

Stages of Drunkenness.—All the world’s a pub,
And all the men and women merely drinkers;
They have their hiccoughs and their staggerings;
And one man in a day drinks many glasses,
His acts being seven stages. At first the gentleman,
Steady and steadfast in his good resolves;
And then the wine and bitters, appetiser,
And pining, yearning look, leaving like a snail
The comfortable bar. And then the arguments,
Trying like Hercules with a wrathful frontage
[Pg 163]To refuse one more two penn’orth. Then the mystified,
Full of strange thoughts, unheeding good advice,
Careless of honour, sudden, thick, and gutt’ral,
Seeking the troubled repetition
Even in the bottle’s mouth; and then quite jovial,
In fair good humour while the world swims round
With eyes quite misty, while his friends him cut,
Full of nice oaths and awful bickerings;
And so he plays his part. The sixth stage shifts
Into the stupid, slipping, drunken man,
With ‘blossoms’ on his nose and bleery-eyed,
His shrunken face unshaved, from side to side
He rolls along; and his unmanly voice,
Huskier than ever, fails and flies,
And leaves him—staggering round. Last scene of all,
That ends this true and painful history,
Is stupid childishness, and then oblivion—
Sans watch, sans chain, sans coin, sans everything.

It is impossible to dismiss Shakespeare without some notice of the man himself. But how little is known apart from his works![107] Go to Stratford-on-Avon, visit ‘the birthplace;’ bear those good ladies who show it tell you of the eight villages immortalised by their supposed connection with the poet; hear them repeat the lines ascribed by tradition to Shakespeare himself:—

Piping Pebworth, dancing Marston,
Haunted Hillborough, hungry Grafton,
Dudging Exhall, Popish Wickford,
Beggarly Broom, and drunken Bidford.

Hear them tell the story of Shakespeare’s crab-tree, how that the young poet was one of a party who accepted a challenge for a drinking bout from certain topers at [Pg 164]Bidford, how that the hero became so overcome that when he started home he could proceed no further than the crab-tree, and so lay down there and sheltered for the night.[108] Hear, too, of ‘ye Falcon Tavern,’ close to the grammar school where the poet was almost certainly educated. And this is all that the present limit allows.

How died he? We turn to the pages of an inimitable diary, and read thus:

After this act (referring to the making of his will) we surmise the poet’s strength rallied, his friends probably heard of his illness, and crowded around him.... Then came Ben Jonson and Drayton, his chosen ones—they shared his inmost heart. In the city, on the stage, at good men’s feasts.... Their minds had been as one. Shakespeare was sick, and they came to cheer, to sooth, to sympathize with his sufferings. Animated and excited by their long-tried and much-loved society, as the sound of the trumpet rouses the spirit of the dying war-horse, their presence and voices made him forget the weakness that even then was bowing him to the very dust. He left his chamber, and perhaps quitted his bed to join the circle; we think we hear him, with musical voice, exclaim, ‘Sick now! droop now!’ We imagine we behold his pale face flushed with the brilliant animation of happiness, but not of health. We see his eyes flashing with the rays of genius, and sparkling with sentiments of unmingled pleasure. He is himself again, the terrors of death are passed away, the festive banquet is spread, and the warm grasp of friendly hands have driven the thick coming fancies from his lightened heart; he is the life of the party, the spirit of the feasts; but the exertion was far too great for his fragile frame, ‘the choice of death is rare,’ and the destroyer quitted not his splendid victim.[109]

So passed away William Shakespeare, whose influence cannot be better summed up than in the words of a very thoughtful writer:—

[Pg 165]

In all his works he is a witness ever ready to declare and expose the ruling sin of his day and generation. It is true that he sometimes found a picture gallery among the drunkards, used them in his artistic way, and made them extol the virtues of the thing that lowered them to what they were, the buffoons of his creation; but in his heart of hearts, as he would himself express it, he abhorred the thing, while he could not resist the acknowledgment of its fascination.

The same cannot be said of his friend, Ben Jonson, who, like so many of the dramatists of the period, as Marlowe, Greene, and Nash, was a notoriously free liver. His naturally passionate disposition, so unlike that of his famous friend, was rendered more hasty and vindictive by his addiction to drink. He goes near to condemn himself in his apostrophe ‘To Penshurst’:—

Whose liberal board doth flow
With all that hospitality doth know!
Where comes no guest but is allowed to eat
Without his fear, and of my lord’s own meat;
Where the same beer and bread, and self-same wine,
That is his lordship’s shall be also mine.
And I not fain to sit—as some this day
At great men’s tables—and yet dine away.
Here no man tells my cups.

To him canary was

The very elixir and spirit of wine.

He could say, though not in the original intention,

Wine is the word that glads the heart of man,
And mine’s the house of wine. Sack, says my bush,
Be merry and drink sherry, that is my posie.

[Pg 166]

The following are

Ben Jonson’s Sociable Rules for the Apollo.

Let none but guests, or clubbers, hither come.
Let dunces, fools, sad sordid men keep home.
Let learned, civil, merry men, b’invited,
And modest too; nor be choice ladies slighted.
Let nothing in the treat offend the guests;
More for delight than cost prepare the feast.
The cook and purvey’r must our palates know;
And none contend who shall sit high or low.
Our waiters must quick-sighted be, and dumb,
And let the drawers quickly hear and come.
Let not our wine be mix’d, but brisk and neat,
Or else the drinkers may the vintners beat.
And let our only emulation be,
Not drinking much, but talking wittily.
Let it be voted lawful to stir up
Each other with a moderate chirping cup;
Let not our company be or talk too much;
On serious things, or sacred, let’s not touch
With sated heads and bellies. Neither may
Fiddlers unask’d obtrude themselves to play,
With laughing, leaping, dancing, jests, and songs,
And whate’er else to grateful mirth belongs,
Let’s celebrate our feasts; and let us see
That all our jests without reflection be.
Insipid poems let no man rehearse,
Nor any be compelled to write a verse.
All noise of vain disputes must he forborne,
And let no lover in a corner mourn,
To fight and brawl, like hectors, let none dare,
Glasses or windows break, or hangings tear,
Whoe’er shall publish what’s here done or said
From our society must be banishèd;
Let none by drinking do or suffer harm,
And, while we stay, let us be always warm.

In one of his plays he absurdly compares the host of the ‘New Inn’ to one of those stone jugs called ‘Long Beards.’

[Pg 167]Who’s at the best some round grown thing—a jug
Fac’d with a beard, that fills out to the guests.

These stone vessels may be recognised as glazed, of a mottled brown colour, with a narrow neck and wide-spreading belly, a rudely executed face with a long flowing beard, and a handle behind. Mr. Chaffers, from whom this description is taken, says that these vessels were in general use in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries at public-houses, to serve ale to the customers. The largest size held eight pints. Some of them bore coats-of-arms. They were also called Bellarmines, after the celebrated cardinal who so opposed the progress of the reformers that he incurred the hatred of the Protestants, who manifested their rancour by satire such as this bottle, which figured a hard-featured son of Adam.

In the Cynthia’s Revels of Ben Jonson, occurs an allusion to that hideous custom, the practice of which he attributes to a representative lover stabbing himself, drinking a health, and writing languishing letters in his blood. In the Humorous Lieutenant of Beaumont and Fletcher, allusion is made to the same practice of gentlemen cutting and stabbing themselves, and mingling their blood with the wine in which they toasted their mistresses. In the Merchant of Venice the Prince of Morocco, with the same meaning, speaks of ‘making an incision for love.’ Jonson occupied the president’s chair in the Apollo room in the Devil Tavern (on the site of which is Child’s bank), surrounded by the ‘eruditi, urbani, hilares, honesti,’ of that age. A contemporary dramatist, Shakerly Marmion, describes him thus:—

The boon Delphic god
Drinks sack, and keeps his Bacchanalia,
And has his incense and his altars smoking,
And speaks in sparkling prophecies.

[Pg 168]

The tavern to which Ben gave such a lasting reputation had for a sign the Devil, and St. Dunstan twigging his nose with a pair of hot tongs. Over the chimney inside were engraved in black marble his leges conviviales, and over the door some verses by the same hand, which wind up with a eulogistic encomium upon wine.

Ply it, and you all are mounted,
‘Tis the true Phœbian liquor,
Cheers the brains, makes wit the quicker;
Pays all debts, cures all diseases,
And at once three senses pleases.[110]

Two authors, who would well bear comparison, remain to be mentioned—Barnabie Googe and Thomas Tusser. The latter was a georgical poet of great popularity in the sixteenth century. His poems were faithful pictures of the domestic life of the English farmer of his day. He concerns us now simply for his belief in the strengthening virtues of the hop. Among his ‘Directions for Cultivating a Hop Garden,’ we find:—

The hop for his profit I thus do exalt,
It strengtheneth drink, and it favoureth malt;
And being well brewed, long kept it will last,
And drawing abide—if ye draw not too fast.

His entire poem, after considerable expansion, appeared under the title of Five Hundreth Points of Good Husbandrie.

Googe wrote upon the same subject.[111] We can glean from him some useful information upon the culture of the vine in England. He says:—

We might have a reasonable good wine growing in many places of this realme; as undoubtedly wee had immediately after the Conquest; tyll partly by slouthfulnesse, not liking anything long [Pg 169]that is painefull, partly by civil discord long-continuying, it was left, and so with tyme lost, as appeareth by a number of places in this realme that keepe still the name of vineyardes; and uppon many cliffes and hilles are yet to be seene the rootes and olde remaynes of vines. There is besides Nottingham an auncient house, called Chilwell, in which house remayneth yet, as an auncient monument, in a great wyndowe of glasse, the whole order of planting, pruyning, stamping, and pressing of vines. Beside there is yet also growing an old vine, that yields a grape sufficient to make a right good wine, as was lately proved. There hath, moreover, good experience of late yeears been made, by two noble and honorable barons of this realme, the lorde Cobham and the lorde Willyams of Tame, who had both growyng about their houses as good wines as are in many parts of Fraunce.


[87] Cf. the Act of 1536 which speaks of ‘sakkes and other sweete wines.’

[Pg 170]

[88] ‘Now, many kinds of sacks are known and used.’ Howell. Londinopolis, p. 103. The palm-sack, which Ben Jonson speaks of, is from Palma Island, one of the Canary group.

[89] Bancroft, Two Bookes of Epigrammes and Epitaphs, 1639.

[90] Another variety of this second version is ‘Turkeys, carps, hops, piccarel, and beer.’ Anderson. Hist. of Commerce, vol. i., p. 354.

[91] See Losely Manuscripts, and other Rare Documents minutely illustrating English History, Biography, and Manners from Henry VIII. to James I., preserved in the Muniment Room at Losely House, edited with Notes by A. J. Kempe.

[92] Camden Society reprint of the Rutland Papers.

[93] Tusser Redivivus (1744), p. 81.

[94] Christen State of Matrimony (1543).

[95] The Anatomie of Abuses (1583).

[96] This song is given in Washington’s Irving’s Sketch Book, in its original orthography.

[97] Midsummer Night’s Dream, act 2, scene i. Cf. Knight, Pict. Hist., vol. ii. Gent. Magazine, May 1784.

[98] Herrick: Poems.

[99] Scott, Lay of the Last Minstrel. Cf. also Christmas with the Poets; and the ‘Old and Young Courtier’ in the Percy Reliques.

[100] In the time of Henry IV. there was a club called ‘La Court de bone Compagnie,’ of which Occleve was a member, and perhaps Chaucer. The word club is connected with cleave, which has the twofold meaning of split and adhere; reminding one of the equivalent words partner and associe, the former pointing to the division of profits, the latter to the community of interests. Cf. Timbs, Club Life.

[101] Camden’s assertion will be found criticised towards the end of this book.

[102] By Richard Carew, 1602.

[103] Anatomie of Abuses, 1583.

[104] Naogeorgus, The Popish Kingdome, Englyshed by Barnabe Googe. London, 1570.

[105] Gascoigne: The Steele Glas: A Satyre, 1576.

[106] Since writing the present sketch, the attitude of Shakespeare to temperance has been carefully considered and dealt with in a work entitled Shakespeare on Temperance, by Frederick Sherlock.

[107] All that can possibly be verified has been investigated by the indefatigable energy and industry, extending over nearly half a century, of J. O. Halliwell Phillipps Esq., F.R.S., of Hollingbury Copse, Brighton.

[108] Cf. Knight, Old England, vol. ii.; and C. F. Green, Shakespeare’s Crab Tree.

[109] Diary of the Rev. John Ward (arranged by Charles Severn, 1839).

[110] George Daniel, Merrie England in the Olden Time.

[111] Foure Bookes of Husbandry, 1578.



In entering upon this period it will be necessary to consider, in the first place, what were the drinks chiefly in use. A pamphlet, bearing the date 1612, enumerates a number of the wines then popular:—

Some drinking the neat wine of Orleance, some the Gasgony, some the Bordeaux. There wanted neither sherry sack, nor Charneco, Malyfo, nor amber-coloured Candy, nor liquorish Ipocras, brown beloved Bastard, fat Aligant, nor any quick-spirited liquor.[112]

That Spanish wines of the Sacke species were now especial favourites, is evident from an ordinance of James I.:—

Whereas, in times past, Spanish wines, called sacke, were little or no whit used in our court, and that in late years, though not of ordinary allowance, it was thought convenient that such noblemen and women and others of account, as had diet in the court, upon their necessities by sicknesse or otherwise, might have a bowle or glasse of sacke, and so no great quantity spent; we understanding that within these late years it is used as common to all order, using it rather for wantonnesse and surfeiting than for necessity, to a great and wasteful expense.... Our pleasure is that there be allowed to the serjeant of our seller 12 gallons of sacke a day, and no more.

The fashion of Malmsey had passed away, and the Hungarian red wine (Ofener) had taken its place. It came by Breslau to Hamburg, whence it was shipped to England. Very little Hungarian wine used to be made with a view to exportation. Now many sorts find their way to this country, notably the Carlowitz. The wine-jurors of the 1862 Exhibition reported:—‘Great expectations have been formed of the capability of Hungary as [Pg 171]a wine supplying country. The produce is large, amounting to nearly 250,000,000 gallons yearly. Many of the wines are good, but more careful treatment is generally required.’ At one time only imperial Tokay was known in England as the produce of that country.[113]

Hock was also in high repute:

What wine is it? Hock,
By the mass, brave wine.[114]

Besides wine, beer and spirits were both adopted. Spirits used to be called strong waters, and comfortable waters; thus, when Sir George Summers of Lyme, in 1609, was driven before a hurricane, which led to his discovery of the Bermudas, there appeared no hope of saving the ship, so waterlogged was she. In this extremity, those who had ‘comfortable waters’ drank to one another as taking their last leaves.

Ale and beer were both in common use. But a new kind arose in competition. Dr. Butler, physician to James I., and, according to Fuller, the Æsculapius of that age, invented a kind of medicated ale, called Dr. Butler’s Ale, which used to be sold at houses that had the ‘Butler’s Head’ for a sign.[115]

But to pass from the quid to the quatenus, as Bishop Andrewes would say. Were these liquors drunk to excess? We should suspect that such would be the case, knowing the example of the Court, and remembering that not a little of the literature of the time abetted free living, whilst, at the same time, legislative restriction and ecclesiastical monition were rife, and in certain quarters, both clerical and lay, these excesses were vehemently anathematised.

[Pg 172]

Yes, the legislative, we shall find, was active, far more active than the executive, as appears from the renewal of an important statute in the same reign, just as though it had utterly ceased to be in force. The king showed great desire to enforce several statutes, but the difficulty lay in the fact that he was the first to infringe them. In fact, as Green does not hesitate to aver, the king was known to be an habitual drunkard; ladies of rank copied the royal manners, and rolled intoxicated in open court at the king’s feet.[116] His tutor, Buchanan, was a great drinker; and his nurse is said to have been a drunkard,[117] which latter circumstance gave him a predisposition to drink; the relation of cause and effect in such cases being established. Dr. Mitchell, one of the Lunacy Commissioners, stated in evidence before the Select Committee on Habitual Drunkards in 1872: ‘It is quite certain that the children of habitual drunkards are in a larger proportion idiotic than other children, and in a larger proportion themselves habitual drunkards.’[118] The king’s hereditary tendency was not improved by his connection with Denmark. In the carouses with which that Court celebrated the royal nuptials, James increased that proclivity for heavy drinking to which most of his follies may be traced. He dates his letters ‘From the castle of Cronenburg, quhaire, we are drinking and driving our in the auld manner.’ The same influence followed him to his own dominions. A tavern sign, ‘The King of Denmark,’ perpetuates to this day a royal visit which was celebrated with unparalleled orgies. It will [Pg 173]be remembered that James I. married a sister of Christian IV., king of Denmark.[119] In 1606 the Danish king, Christian, paid a visit to this country. He and his brother-in-law, James, were invited to a festival at Theobalds, the seat of the Prime Minister Cecil, Earl of Salisbury. The revellings there were disgraced by scenes of intemperance which have acquired historical notoriety. The queen was by necessity absent at the time when the kings were abandoning themselves to unrestrained excess. Mr. Samuelson, in his History of Drink, has fallen into the error of certain writers of the last century who have accused Queen Anne of the derelictions from propriety committed on this occasion by a certain queen, who, having taken too much, reeled against the steps of King Christian’s throne. But, as is pointed out by Strickland, this queen was only the Queen of Sheba, personated by a female servant of the Earl of Salisbury, and not the Queen of Great Britain, as any one may ascertain who reads Sir John Harrington’s letter, the sole document on which is founded the mistaken accusation of intemperance against the queen of James I. The story has been often told in whole or part, but it may be well to produce the original.[120]

Those whom I never could get to taste good liquor now ... wallow in beastly delights. The ladies abandon sobriety, and are seen to roll about in intoxication. After dinner, the representation of Solomon, his temple, and the coming of the Que[Pg 174]en of Sheba was made.... The lady who did play the queen’s part did carry most precious gifts to both their majesties, but forgetting the steppes arising to the canopy, overset her caskets in his Danish Majesty’s lap, and fell at his feet, though I rather think it was on his face. Much was the hurry and confusion—cloths and napkins were at hand to make all clean. His Majesty then got up, and would dance with the Queen of Sheba, but he fell down and humbled himself before her and was carried to his inner chamber. The entertainment and show went forward, and most of the presenters went backward or fell down, wine did so occupy their upper chambers.

Much more is told, but one sentence is pregnant: ‘The gunpowder fright is out of all our heads, and we are going on hereabouts, as if the devil were contriving every man should blow up himself by wild riot, excess, and devastation of wine and intemperance.’

The queen was not present; indeed, she was not even a guest of the earl at this time, but was confined to her chamber sick and sad at Greenwich Palace. At a banquet on the Thames, however, given soon after by her royal brother, the queen was present. They pledged each other to continued friendship. To each pledge, drum, trumpet, and cannon were responsive. Shakespeare describes a similar scene:

No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day,
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell.

Such pledges of friendship seem almost typical of the happy event of 1863, to which Jean Ingelow so exquisitely alludes in her ‘Wedding song.’

Come up the broad river, the Thames, my Dane,
My Dane, with the beautiful eyes.
    *    *    *    *
[Pg 175] And they said, ‘He is young, the lad we love,
The heir of the Isles is young;
How we deem of his mother, and one gone above,
Can neither be said nor sung.
He brings us a pledge—he will do his part
With the best of his race and name;’
And I will, for I look to live, sweetheart,
As may suit with Thy mother’s fame.

But, taking leave of the court, let us proceed to discover the manners of the people, from contemporary authors and dramatists. Much is to be gleaned from the voluminous writings of Thomas Decker, whose pamphlets and plays, the Quarterly Review once said, would furnish a more complete view of the habits and customs of his contemporaries in vulgar and middle life than could easily be collected from all the grave annals of the times. His Seven Deadly Sins of London, published in 1606, is a mighty invective against the iniquity of the day. It has been well remarked in the introduction to Arber’s reprint of the work, how much the mind of the writer was imbued with the style of the old Hebrew prophets, and how sure he was that that style would find a response in the hearts of his readers. For instance, how like the ‘burden of the Word of the Lord’ is his apostrophe to London—‘O London, thou art great in glory, and envied for thy greatness. Thou art the goodliest of thy neighbours, but the proudest, the wealthiest, the most wanton.... Thou sit’st in thy gates heated with wines.’ In his account of the third deadly sin, he speaks of wines, Spanish and French, meeting in the cellar, conspiring together to lay the Englishman under the board. Perhaps his finest effort of prosopopæia is his impersonation of sloth, whom he represents as giving licences to all the vintners to ‘keepe open house, and to emptye their hogsheades to all commers, who did so, dyeing their grates into a drunkard’s blush (to make them knowe from gates of a prison) lest customers should[Pg 176] reele away from them, and hanging out new bushes, that if men at their going out could not see the signe, yet they might not lose themselves in the bush.... And as drunkennesse when it least can stand, does best hold up ale-houses, so sloth is a founder of the alms-houses, ... and is a good benefactor to these last.’ To call attention to this author’s notices of such rules of drunkenness as Vpsy-Freeze, Crambo, Parmizant, &c., would be beside the present object; but the book will amply repay study, and serve as a commentary on Defoe’s Plague of London. Several other of his works bear upon the present theme, e.g. The Batchelor’s Banquet, Lanthorne and Candle Light, and English Villanies prest to Death.

A writer quite as voluminous, and equally with Decker a scourge of iniquity, was George Wyther (persistently called by so many—Hazlitt and Brand among the number—Wythers). In 1613 he brought out his satirical essays, Abuses Stript and Whipt, the truth and beauty of which, to his honour be it said, touched the heart of Charles Lamb, who observes:[121]

The game run down is coarse general vice, or folly as it appears in classes. A liar, a drunkard, a coxcomb, is stript and whipt.... To a well-natured mind, there is a charm of moral sensibility running through them. Wither seems everywhere bursting with a love of goodness, and a hatred of all low and base actions. At this day it is hard to discover what parts in the poem Abuses Stript could have occasioned the imprisonment of the author. Was vice in high places more suspicious than now?

Reference has already been made to the allusion in [Pg 177]this work of Wither to the custom of Hock-tide. He ridicules the notion of such an observance and that of ales subserving the devotion of youth, and indignantly asks,—

What will they do, I say, that think to please
Their mighty God with such fond things as these?
Sure, very ill.

In this same work occurs an allusion to the then common practice of inserting toast into ale with nutmeg and sugar:—

Will he will drinke, yet but a draught at most,
That must be spiced with a nut-browne tost.

The origin of the word toast is much disputed, as is elsewhere observed, and no better account of it is forthcoming than that the word was taken from the toast which was put into the tankard, and which still floats in the loving cup. Hence the person named was the toast or savour of the wine, that which gives the draught piquancy.

Many other of the drinking customs of the day are criticised, but not all with censure. The ode to Christmas, for instance, contrasts strongly with his later puritanical sentiments. Neither sectarian gloom nor civil struggles had yet enveloped the author when he wrote,—

Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
And let us all be merry.
Hark how the roofs with laughter sound!
Anon they’ll think the house goes round,
For they the cellars’ depth have found,
And there they will be merry,

which introduces a stanza upon wassailing. A change must have come over his [Pg 178]dream before he wrote his second ode on the same subject, which alone would entitle him to the encomiums of Hazlitt or any other critic.[122]

Far more unqualified denunciation of seventeenth century excess is to be found in a volume by Thomas Young (1617), entitled England’s Bane, or the Description of Drunkennesse. He says,—

There are in London drinking schooles: so that drunkennesse is professed with us as a liberall arte and science.... I have seene a company amongst the very woods and forests drinking for a muggle. Sixe determined to trie their strengths who could drinke most glasses for the muggle. The first drinkes a glasse of a pint, the second two, the next three, and so every one multiplieth till the last taketh sixe. Then the first beginneth againe and taketh seven, and in this manner they drinke thrice a peece round, every man taking a glasse more than his fellow, so that he that dranke least, which was the first, drank one and twenty pints, and the sixth man thirty-six.[123]

Scarcely less absurd than these laws of drunkenness, are the laws of health-drinking as described by Barnaby Rich in his work published 1619, the title of which is an excellent preface to the subject-matter, ‘The Irish Hubbub, or the English Hue and Crie; briefly pursuing the base conditions and most notorious offences of this vile, vaine, and wicked age. No less smarting than tickling,’ &c. The following is his description of toasting laws:—

He that beginneth the health hath his prescribed orders; first uncovering his head, hee takes a full cup in his hand, and settling his countenance with a grave aspect, hee craves for audience; silence being once obtained, hee begins to breath out the name peradventure of some honourable personage that is worthy of a better regard than to have his name polluted amongst a company of drunkards; but his healthe is drunke to, and hee that pledgeth [Pg 179]must likewise off with his cap, kisse his fingers, and bowing himselfe in signe of a reverent acceptance. When the leader sees his follower thus prepared, he soups up his broath, turnes the bottom of the cup upward, and in ostentation of his dexteritie, gives the cup a phillip, to make it cry twango. And thus the first scene is acted. The cup being newly replenished, to the breadthe of an haire, he that is the pledger must now beginne his part, and thus it goes round throughout the whole company, provided alwaies by a cannon set downe by the founder, there must be three at the least still uncovered, till the health hath had the full passage, which is no sooner ended, but another begins againe, and he drinks a health, &c.

It appears from another author, that this method was accounted a procedure in order, for he adds, ‘It is drunke without order when the course or method of order is not observed, and that the cup passeth on to whomsoever we shall appoint.’ Drink is the burden of the songs of this hilarious writer, who is usually, known by the sobriquet of Drunken Barnaby (or Barnabea) from the titles he himself employed. It is curiously illustrative of the hold that convivial phrases had upon the popular mind that we find a pious divine solemnly quoting the words of a suffering Christian, one Lawrence Saunders, to this effect,—‘My Saviour began to mee in a bitter cup, and shall not I pledge Him?’ [i.e. drink the same cup of sorrow]. The divine just alluded to, Dr. Samuel Ward, of Ipswich, in his sermon (1685) entitled ‘Woe to Drunkards,’ anathematises toasting: ‘Abandon that foolish and vicious custome, as Ambrose and Basil call it, of drinking healths, and making that a sacrifice to God for the health of others, which is rather a sacrifice to the devil, and a bane of their owne.’

But this kind of appeal was by no means confined to the pulpit. Robert Burton, the famous author of the Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), who cannot be accused of being strait-laced (at any rate, Anthony Wood sp[Pg 180]eaks of his company as very merry, facete, and juvenile), in his pungent chapter on Dyet as a cause of melancholy, exclaims,—

What immoderate drinking in every place! How they flock to the tavern! as if they were born to no other end but to eat and drink, as so many casks to hold wine; yea, worse than a cask, that marrs wine, and itself is not marred by it.... ‘Tis now come to that pass, that he is no gentleman, a very milk-sop, that will not drink, fit for no company.... No disparagement now to stagger in the streets, reel, rave, &c., but much to his renown.... ‘Tis the summum bonum of our tradesmen, their felicity, life, and soul, to be merry together in an ale-house or tavern, as our modern Muscovites do in their mede-inns, and Turks in their coffee-houses. They will labour hard all day long, to be drunk at night, and spend totius anni labores in a tippling feast.... How they love a man that will be drunk, crown him, and honour him for it, hate him that will not pledge him, stab him, kill him: a most intolerable offence, and not to be forgiven.

Again, in his chapter on ‘Mirth and Merry Company,’ he warns,—

But see the mischief; many men, knowing that merry company is the only medicine against melancholy, will therefore neglect their business, and spend all their days among good fellows in a tavern, and know not otherwise how to bestow their time but in drinking; malt-worms, men-fishes, or water-snakes, like so many frogs in a puddle.... Flourishing wits and men of good parts, good fashion, and good worth, basely prostitute themselves to every rogue’s company to take tobacco and drink.... They drown their wits, seeth their brains in ale, consume their fortunes, lose their time, weaken their temperatures, contract filthy diseases, rheumes, dropsies, calentures, tremor, get swoln juglars, pimpled red faces, sore eyes, &c.; heat their livers, alter their complexions, spoil their stomachs, overthrow their bodies (for drink drowns more than the sea and all the rivers that fall into it), mere funges and casks—confound their souls, suppress reason, go from Scylla to Charybdis.

[Pg 181]

If such were the avowed expressions of Burton, we shall not wonder to find such men as George Herbert and Bishop Hall vehement in denunciation of the same bane.

Because luxury is a very visible sin, the parson is very careful to avoid all the kinds thereof, but especially that of drinking, because it is the most popular vice; into which if he come, he prostitutes himself both to shame, and sin, and by having fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, he disableth himself of authority to reprove them: for sins make all equal whom they find together; and then they are worst, who ought to be best. Neither is it for the servant of Christ to haunt inns, or taverns, or ale-houses, to the dishonour of his person and office.[124]

This passage is quoted to call attention to the words italicised (not by Herbert), ‘because it is the most popular vice;’ an independent confirmation of the excessive drinking in the reign of James I.

Again, in The Parson in Journey, chapter xvii.,—

When he comes to any house, where his kindred or other relations give him any authority over the family, if he be to stay for a time, he considers diligently the state thereof to God-ward, and that in two points: First, what disorders there are either in apparel, or diet, or too open a buttery, &c.

The meaning of the words italicised is mistaken by the occasional annotator to Bohn’s edition, who explains it, ‘A repository or store-room for certain provisions.’ But in Elizabethan and Jacobean times, buttery always meant the place where the beer (or wine) was kept. Evidence is forthcoming from our dramatists of those periods. Thus:—

(1) Maria, in Twelfth Night (act i., scene 3), says to the unfortunate butt Sir Andrew Ague-cheek, ‘I pray you bring your hand to the buttery bar and let it drink.’

[Pg 182]

(2) Middleton, in A Trick to Catch the Old One (Ed. Dyce, vol. ii.), has a clear proof, in the words, ‘Go, and wash your lungs i’ th’ buttery.’

From Herbert’s Jacula Prudentum may be extracted—

A drunkard’s purse is a bottle.
Choose not a house near an inn.
Take heed of the vinegar of sweet wine.
The wine in the bottle doth not quench thirst.
A morning sun, and a wine-bred child, and a
Latin-bred woman, seldom end well.

Once more, from the Church Porch,—

Drink not the third glasse, which thou canst not tame
When once it is within thee; but before
Mayst rule it, as thou list: and poure the shame,
Which it would poure on thee, upon the floore.
It is most just to throw that on the ground
Which would throw me there, if I keep the round.

He that is drunken may his mother kill
Bigge with his sister: he hath lost the reins,
Is outlaw’d by himselfe; all kinde of ill
Did with his liquor slide into his veins.
The drunkard forfets Man, and doth divest
All worldly right, save what he hath by beast.

Shall I, to please another’s wine-sprung minde,
Lose all mine own? God hath giv’n me a measure
Short of his canne, and bodie.
    *    *    *    *
Be not a beast in courtesie, but stay,
Stay at the third cup, or forego the place.
Wine above all things doth God’s stamp efface.

Bishop Hall was unsparing in his lashes of the vices of his time, and amongst these of intemperance. We hear him in verse and prose, in critique and sermon. Thus, in his Satire on the Stage,[125]

[Pg 183]Soon as the sun sends out his piercing beams
Exhale out filthy smoke and stinking streams,
So doth the base and the fore-barren brain,
Soon as the raging wine begins to reign.

In his Contemplation on Lot he remarks, ‘Drunkenness is the way to all bestial affections and acts. Wine knows no difference either of persons or sins.’ In his sermon preached at Paul’s Cross, on Good Friday, 1609, we find ‘Every of our sins is a thorn, and nail, and spear to Him; while thou pourest down thy drunken carouses, thou givest thy Saviour a portion of gall.’ Why are not the preachers of to-day equally outspoken? One of his apophthegms can scarcely be forgotten:[126] ‘When drinke is in, wit is out; but if wit were not out, drinke would not be in;’ and, lastly,—

Wine is a mocker. When it goes plausibly in, no man can know how it will rage and tyrannise. He that receives that traitor within his gates shall too late complain of surprisal. It insinuates sweetly, but in the end it bites like a serpent and hurts like a cockatrice. Even good Uriah is made drunk. The holiest may be overtaken.

But it is time to pass from precept to law.

In 1603 the power of licensing inns and ale-houses was granted by letters patent to certain persons, in which it was enacted that no victualler could sell less than one full quart of the best ale for one penny, and two quarts of the smaller sort for the same. The preamble of the statute of 1604 is most valuable for the information it affords as to what the ancient Parliaments considered to be the legitimate use of a tavern.

Whereas the ancient, true, and principal use of wine, ale-houses, and victualling-houses was for the receipt, relief, and lodging of wayfaring people travelling from place to place, and for the supply of the wants of such people as are not able by greater quantities to [Pg 184]make their provision of victuals; and not meant for entertainment and harbouring of lewd and idle people to spend and consume their money and time in lewd and drunken manner: it is enacted that only travellers, and travellers’ friends, and labourers for one hour at dinner-time or lodgers can receive entertainment under penalty.

The statute of 4th James imposes punishment for drunkenness:—

Whereas the loathsome and odious sin of drunkenness is of late grown into common use, being the root and foundation of many other enormous sins, as bloodshed, stabbing, murder, swearing, fornication, adultery, and such like, to the great dishonour of God and of our nation, the overthrow of many good arts and manual trades, the disabling of divers workmen, and the general impoverishing of many good subjects, abusively wasting the good creatures of God.

Therefore a fine of five shillings was imposed for intoxication, or confinement in the stocks for six hours, and for the first offence of remaining drinking in a person’s own neighbourhood, a fine of three shillings and fourpence, or the stocks, the penalty being increased for further offence. The fine, it must be remembered, was worth several times the same amount imposed now for intoxication, and the high road to it, tippling, is now passed over. The time prescribed in the stocks was fixed at six hours, because by that time the statute presumed the offender would have regained his senses, and not be liable to do mischief to his neighbours.[127]

Little success can as yet have attended legislation, for in 1609, the statute, admitting that ‘notwithstanding all former laws and provisions already made, the inordinate and extreme vice of excessive drinking and drunkenness doth more and more abound,’ enacts that offenders convicted against the two last Acts shall be deprived of their licence. Again has this statute to be [Pg 185]renewed in 1623, as though the executive had slept. Among the grievances that the Parliament of 1621 examined was one that patents had been granted to Sir Giles Mompesson and Sir Francis Michel, for licensing inns and ale-houses; that great sums of money had been exacted under pretext of these licences; and that such innkeepers as presumed to continue their business without satisfying the rapacity of the patentees, had been severely punished by fine, imprisonment, and vexatious prosecutions. The patentees were denounced as criminals. They fled for refuge. Sentence was passed upon them, which, in the case of Mompesson, was commuted. Many useful hints might be learnt from purely local legislation from time to time. Indeed, a most useful code might be formed from a digest of borough enactments. Let one illustration suffice. We find a local law at Lyme, about this time, to the effect that no retailer of beer was to sell to any craftsman or servant of the town, unless he was in company with a stranger. In 1612 it was there ordered that no one should tipple any one day above one hour in any house. It merely remains to be noticed that in Cott. MSS. Titus B. III. Codex chartaceus, in folio, Constans fol. 281, may be found—

1. A letter of James I. to the magistrates of Southampton; with orders for the regulation of ale-houses and victualling-houses, Westm., March 3, 1607.

2. An order of the Queen’s Council for an exact account of all the inns, ale-houses, and taverns in the kingdom, towards levying a tax upon them for the repairs of Dover harbour. Richmd, July 20, 1577.

3. An order for the regulation of ale-houses, 1608.

[Pg 186]

4. An order of Privy Council for a return concerning the ale-houses in different countries, Feb. 19, 1608.

5. Three letters of the Privy Council, and a paper of directions concerning ale-houses. Greenwich, June 30, 1608.[128]

The reign of Charles I. very nearly covers the second quarter of the seventeenth century. If we had to select a single author as our guide to the social habits of the time, we should probably at once fix upon Thomas Heywood, the busiest of dramatic writers, ‘a sort of prose Shakespeare,’ as Charles Lamb makes bold to say. Of his numerous works, one is a direct exposure of the then drinking customs.[129] The immense variety of drinking-cups, as well as the intrinsic value of many of them, speaks volumes. He describes them as ‘some of elme, some of box, some of maple, some of holly, &c., mazers, broad-mouth’d dishes, moggins, whiskins, piggins, cruizes, ale-bowles, wassell-bowles, court-dishes, tankards, kannes, from a bottle to a pint, from a pint to a gill. Other bottles we have of leather, but they are most used amongst the shepheards and harvest-people of the countrey; small jacks wee have in many ale-houses, of the citie and suburbs, tip’t with silver, besides the great black jacks and bombards at the court, which when the Frenchmen first saw, they reported at their returne into their countrey, that the Englishmen used to drinke out of their bootes: we have besides, cups made of horns of beasts, of cocker-nuts, of goords, of the eggs of estriches, others made of the shells of divers fishes brought from the Indies and other places, and shining like mother of pearl. Come to plate, every taverne can afford you flat bowls, prounet cups, beare bowles, beakers; and private householders in the citie, when they make a feast to entertain their friends, can furnish their cupboards with flagons, tankards, beere-cups, wine-bowls, some white, some percell gilt, some gilt all over, [Pg 187]some with covers, some without, of sundry shapes and qualities.’

In the same books occurs the following curious satire:—‘There is now profest an eighth liberal art or science, called Ars Bibendi, i.e. the Art of Drinking. The students or professors thereof call a greene garland, or painted hoope hang’d out, a colledge, a sign where there is lodging, man’s-meate, and horse-meate, an inne of court, an hall or an hostle, where nothing is sold but ale and tobacco, a grammar schoole; a red or a blue lattice, that they terme a free schoole for all comers.... The bookes which they studdy, and whose leaves they so often turne over are for the most part three of the old translation and three of the new. Those of the old translation—1, The Tankard; 2, The Black Jacke; 3, The Quart-Pot, Rib’d, or Thorondell. Those of the new be these: 1, The Jugge; 2, The Beaker; 3, The Double or Single Can, or Black Pot.’ The same author gives a list of slang phrases then in use, signifying the being intoxicated. ‘He is foxt, hee is flawed, he is flustered, hee is suttle, cupshot, he hath seene the French king, he hath swallowed an havie or a taverne-token, hee hath whipt the cat, he hath been at the scriveners, and learn’d to make indentures, hee hath bit his grannam, or is bit by a barne-weesell,’ &c. In another of his productions, Shipwreck by Drink, he describes a drunken scene which took place in a house that he was passing in which a feast was being held:—

In the height of their carousing, all their brains
Warmed with the heat of wine.

[Pg 188]

And a marvellous piece of description it is. The guests imagine themselves to be rocked in a vessel during storm, climb bedposts as though they were masts, turn out the furniture as if casting ship-lading overboard; another bestrides his fellow to escape, Arion-like, on the dolphin’s back. The staff of the constable who enters is considered to be Neptune’s trident, and so forth.

But enough of this author. The habits of his time had evidently impressed him, and he constantly revives his impression. But it was no self-formed phantom. Abundance of corroboration is forthcoming. A political economist of the same date (1627) remarks, ‘This most monstrous vice is thus defined:—“Drunkenness is the privation of orderly motion and understanding.” ... But I need not stand much about the definition of drunkenness, for, with grief I speak it, the taverns, ale-houses, and the very streets are so full of drunkards in all parts of this kingdom, that by the sight of them it is better known what this detestable and odious vice is than by any definition whatsoever.’[130]

Regarding it then as established, that the intemperance of the times of Elizabeth and James I. was still perpetuated, it is natural to inquire to what it is to be attributed.

(1) The attractiveness of the drinks themselves, a constant factor in all periods.

Of wines, Canary and sack were in most demand, though these were constantly terms indifferently used; thus,—

[Pg 189]

Some sack, boy.
Good sherry-sack, sir?
I meant Canary, sir; what, hast no brains?[131]

The following is the explanation of the confusion in terms:—

Your best sacks are of Xeres in Spain; your smaller, of Gallicia and Portugall; your strong sacks are of the islands of the Canaries and of Malligo, and your Muskadine and Malmseys are of many parts, of Italy, Greece, and some special islands;[132]

and renders intelligible the following:—

Two kinsmen near allied to sherry sack,
Sweet Malligo and delicate Canary.[133]

It is extolled in Beaumont and Fletcher:—

Give me a cup of sack
An ocean of sweet sack.

Canary was in great esteem. John Howell praises it as ‘accounted the richest, the most firm, the best bodied, and lastingest wine: while French wine pickles meat in the stomach, this is the wine that digests, and doth not only breed good bloud, but it nutrifieth also, being a glutinous substantial liquor. Of this wine, if of any other, may be verified that merry induction, that good wine makes good blood, good blood causeth good humours, good humours causeth good thoughts, good thoughts bring forth good works, good works carry a man to heaven; ergo good wine carrieth a man to heaven. If this be true, surely more English go to heaven this way than any other, for I think there is more Canary brought to England than to all the world besides.’[134]

But probably no kind of drink came amiss.

[Pg 190]

The Russ drinks quass; Dutch, Lubeck beer,
And that is strong and mighty;
The Briton, he metheglin quaffs,
The Irish aqua vitæ;
The French affects the Orleans grape,
The Spaniard tastes his sherry;
The English none of these can ‘scape,
But he with all makes merry.[135]

(2) The prevailing habit of toasting may be set down as a second cause, and a powerful factor it must have been in national corruption, if the case is not overstated by William Prynne,[136] who wrote his startling book to prove ‘the Drinking and Pledging of Healthes to be Sinfull and utterly Unlawful unto Christians.’ In his Epistle Dedicatorie to King Charles I. he urges that his Majesty’s health is an occasion, apologie, pretence, and justification of excesse.

Alas! how many thousand persons have been drawne on to drunkennesse, drinking their wit out of their heads, their health out of their bodies, and God out of their soules, whiles they have beene too busy and officious in carrying healthes unto your sacred Majestie.

Following upon this is an appeal ‘To the Christian Reader,’ in which he offers six reasons ‘why men are so much infatuated with the odious sinne of drunkennesse. (a) The inbred corruption and practice of humane nature. (b) The power of the Prince of the ayre, who hath lately gotten such high predominance in the souls of vitious men, that they doe not only glory in their drunkennesse, proclaiming it unto the world, but set themselves against the God of Heaven, violating the very lawes of nature and the very rules of reason. (c) The third reason is, the popular titles given to abettors of intemperance, e.g., good fellow, sociable, joviall boon [Pg 191]companion, good natured, &c.; whilst mottoes of ignominy are applied to the temperate, e.g., Puritanisme, discourtesie, coynesse, singularitie, stoicisme, &c. (d) The fourth reason is the negligence and coldnesse of justices, magistrates, &c., in the faithful execution of those pious statutes enacted by the State against this sinne. “If justices were as diligent to suppresse drunkennesse and ale-houses as they are industrious to patronise them, the wings of drunkenness would soon be clipt, whereas now they spread and grow, because the sword of execution clipse them not.” (e) The fifth cause why this gangrene doth so dilate is the ill example of gentlemen, great men, magistrates, and ministers, who either approve excesse, or tolerate it in their misgoverned families, “which are oftentimes made the very theatres of Bacchus, and the seminaries, sinkes, and puddles of ryot and intemperance, under pretence of hospitality.” (f) The sixth cause assigned is, “Those common ceremonies, wiles, and stratagems which the deuill and his drunken rowt have invented, of purpose to alure, force, and draw men on to excesse of wine.” ... There is no such common bayte to entice men to intemperance as this idle, heathenish, and hellish ceremonie of beginning, seconding, and pledging healthes.’

Prynne then proceeds in the book proper to give fifteen arguments against health-drinking, drawn out in syllogistic form. Perhaps the most useful part of the book is the array of quotations from ‘the Fathers’ against occasions of intemperance; SS. Augustine, Basil, and Ambrose being most frequently quoted. He vindicates Luther from a charge laid against him by the Papists, which cannot be omitted. They put it about ‘that Luther once made a great feast at his hou[Pg 192]se, to which he invited the chiefest Professours of the Universitie, and among the rest one Islebius. Dinner being ended, and all of them somewhat merry, Luther, after the Germane custome, commanded a great glasse divided with three kindes of circles to be brought unto him; and out of it he drunke an health in order to all his guesse. When all of them had drunke, the health came at last to Islebius. Luther then, in the presence of all the rest, takes this glasse, being filled up, into his hand, and, shewing it to Islebius, saith: “Islebius, I drinke this glasse full of wine unto thee, which containes the tenne commandements to the first circle; the Apostles’ Creed to the second, the Lord’s Prayer to the third, and the Catechisme to the bottom.” When he had spoken, he drinkes off the whole glasse at a draught; which being replenished with wine, he delivers it to Islebius, that he might pledge him all at a breath, who takes the glasse and drunke it off onely to the first circle, which did containe the Decalogue—it being impossible for him to drink any deeper—and then sets downe the glasse on the table, which hee could not behold againe without horrour: then said Luther, “I knew full well before, that Islebius could drinke the Decalogue, but not the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Catechisme.”’

He further cites some canons from ancient Councils; the most important being Canon xv. of the Council of Lateran, 1215:—‘Let all clergymen diligently abstain from surfeitings and drunkenness. For which let them moderate wine from themselves, and themselves from wine. Neither let any one be urged to drink, since drunkenness doth banish wit and provoke lust. For which purpose we decree that that abuse shall be utterly abolished, whereby, in divers quarters, drinkers bi[Pg 193]nd one another to drink healths or equal cups, and he is most applauded who quaffs off most carouzes. If any shall offend henceforth in this, let him be suspended from his benefice and office.’ Again, in the Provincial Council of Colin, 1536, is the order—‘All parish priests or ministers are chiefly prohibited, not only surfeiting, riot, drunkenness, and luxurious feasts, but likewise the drinking of healths, which they are commanded to banish from their houses by a General Council.’

Thus much for the habit of toasting; but—

(3) We may assign as the third reason for the prevalent excess—Convivial Literature. The name that first suggests itself is that of Herrick. It is not only in poems avowedly of this description, such as ‘The Wassail’ and ‘The Wassail Bowl’ but it is a vein running through the entire seam of his songs. With him, at Christmas-time,—

My good dame, she
Bids ye all be free,
And drink to your heart’s desiring.

In his New Year’s Gift, he bids Sir Simeon Steward—

Remember us in cups full crowned,
And let our city health go round.

Is he singing of Twelfth Night? No sooner is the question of king and queen settled than their health must be drunk:—

And let not a man be seen here,
Who unurged will not drink,
To the base from the brink,
[Pg 194]A health to the king and queen here.

Next crown the bowl full
With gentle lamb’s wool;
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.

Of course, ‘True Hospitality’ would be impossible without the favourite ingredient:—

But as thy meat, so thy immortal wine
Makes the smirk face of each to shine,
And spring fresh rosebuds, while the salt, the wit,
Flows from the wine, and graces it.

The pretty superstition that wassailing the trees will make them bear, is included among the Christmas Eve ceremonies in his Hesperides:—

Wassaile the trees, that they may beare
You many a plum and many a peare;
For more or lesse fruits they will bring,
As you do give them wassailing.

The day of this ceremony varies in different localities. In Devonshire the eve of the Epiphany is chosen; there the farmer and his men proceed to the orchard with a huge jug of cider, and forming a circle round a well-bearing tree, drink the toast,—

Here’s to thee, old apple tree,
Whence thou mayst bud, and whence thou mayst blow!
And whence thou mayst bear apples enow!
Hats full! caps full!
Bushel, bushel, sacks full,
And my pockets full too; huzza![137]

Total sustenance (not abstinence) was part of his religion. In his exquisite little poem entitled ‘A Thanksgiving for his House’—only to be[Pg 195] approached (of its kind) by Bishop Wordsworth’s hymn, ‘Who givest all’—he thanks God, amongst other mercies, for the wassail bowl:—

Lord, I confess too, when I dine,
The pulse is Thine,
And all those other bits that be
There placed by Thee.
The worts, the purslain, and the mess
Of water-cress,
Which of Thy kindness Thou hast sent:
And my content
Makes those, and my beloved beet,
To be more sweet.
‘Tis Thou that crown’st my glittering hearth
With guiltless mirth;
And giv’st me wassail bowls to drink,
Spiced to the brink.

With Herrick must be coupled in this connection the name of Cowley, of whom Dr. Johnson said, that ‘if he was formed by nature for one kind of writing more than for another, his power seems to have been greatest in the familiar and the festive.’[138] He was perfectly at home with Anacreontics. That on ‘Drinking’ will be remembered:—

Nothing in nature’s sober found,
But an eternal health goes round.
Fill up the bowl then, fill it high.
Fill all the glasses there, for why
Should every creature drink but I?
Why, men of morals, tell me why?

As will also ‘The Epicure’—the ‘bibamus, moriendum est’ of Seneca:—

Fill the bowl with spicy wine,
Around our temples roses twine,
And let us cheerfully awhile
Like the wine and roses smile.
[Pg 196]     *    *    *    *
To-day is ours; what do we fear?
To-day is ours, we have it here.
Let’s banish business, banish sorrow;
To the gods belong to-morrow.

Cowley’s death was accelerated by intemperance if we can rely upon the authority of Pope. The event occurred while Dean Sprat was his guest. They had visited in company a neighbour of Cowley’s, who too amply refreshed them. ‘They did not set out for their walk home till it was too late, and had drunk so deep that they lay out in the fields all night. This gave Cowley the fever that carried him off.’

To the same convivial school belongs Sir Richard Fanshawe, to whom the distress of the monarch provided occasion for a toast:—

Come, pass about the bowl to me;
A health to our distressed king!
Though we’re in hold, let cups go free,
Birds in a cage do freely sing.[139]

And Alexander Brome, whose Mad Lover exemplifies the tyranny of excessive drinking:—

I have been in love and in debt and in drink
This many and many a year;
And those three are plagues enough, one would think,
For one poor mortal to bear.
‘Twas drink made me fall into love,
And love made me run into debt;
And though I have struggled and struggled and strove,
I cannot get out of them yet.

There’s nothing but money can cure me
And rid me of all my pain.
‘Twill pay all my debts
And remove all my lets,
And my mistress that cannot endure me
[Pg 197]Will love me, and love me again;
Then I’ll fall to loving and drinking amain.

(4) A fourth cause of the intemperance of the time was the profusion of taverns. Decker writes that ‘a whole street is in some places but a continuous ale-house, not a shop to be seen between red lattice and red lattice.’[140]

The Lord-keeper Coventry thus speaks of them:—‘I account ale-houses and tippling-houses the greatest pests in the kingdom. I give it you in charge to take a course that none be permitted unless they be licensed; and for the licensed ale-houses, let them be but few and in fit places; if they be in private corners and ill places, they become the den of thieves—they are the public stages of drunkenness and disorder. Let care be taken in the choice of ale-house keepers, that it be not appointed to be the livelihood of a large family. In many places they swarm by default of the justices of the peace.’[141] It may be remarked that by this time inns had become representative; that is, for the most part each inn attracted a particular species of customer. This did not escape the notice of that keen observer Heywood:—

The gentry to the King’s Head,
The nobles to the Crown,
The knights unto the Golden Fleece,
And to the Plough the clown;
The Churchman to the Mitre,
The shepherd to the Star,
The gardener hies him to the Rose,
To the Drum the man of war;
To the Feathers, ladies, you; the Globe
The seamen do not scorn;
The usurer to the Devil, and
The Townsman to the Horn;
[Pg 198]The Huntsman to the White Hart,
To the Ship the merchants go,
But you that do the Muses love
The sign called River Po;
The bankrupt to the World’s End,
The fool to the Fortune hie,
Unto the Mouth the oyster-wife,
The fiddler to the Pie;

The drunkard to the Vine,
The beggar to the Bush, then meet
And with Sir Humphrey dine.

Bishop Earle, whose Microcosmography is accounted a faithful delineation of characters as they existed in the seventeenth century, has bequeathed the following account of a tavern of his date:—‘A tavern is a degree, or (if you will) a pair of stairs above an ale-house, where men are drunk with more credit and apology. If the vintner’s nose be at the door, it is a sign sufficient, but the absence of this is supplied by the ivy-bush. It is a broacher of more news than hogsheads, and more jests than news, which are sucked up here by some spongy brain, and from thence squeezed into a comedy. Men come here to make merry, but indeed make a noise, and this music above is answered with a clinking below. The drawers are the civillest people in it, men of good bringing up, and howsoever we esteem them, none can boast more justly of their high calling. ‘Tis the best theatre of natures, where they are truly acted, not played, and the business as in the rest of the world, up and down; to wit, from the bottom of the cellar to the great chamber. A melancholy man would find here matter to work upon, to see heads, as brittle as glasses, and often broken. Men come hither to quarrel, and come here to be made friends. It is the common consumption of the afternoon, and the murderer or the maker away of a rainy[Pg 199] day. It is the torrid zone that scorches the face, and tobacco the gunpowder that blows it up. Much harm would be done if the charitable vintner had not water ready for the flames. A house of sin you may call it, but not a house of darkness, for the candles are never out; and it is like those countries far in the north, where it is as clear at midnight as at midday. After a long sitting it becomes like a street in a dashing shower, where the spouts are flushing above, and the conduits running below. To give you the total reckoning of it, it is the busy man’s recreation, the idle man’s business, the melancholy man’s sanctuary, the stranger’s welcome, the inns-of-court man’s entertainment, the scholar’s kindness, and the citizen’s courtesy. It is the study of sparkling wits, and a cup of comedy their book, whence we leave them.’

(5) A fifth cause was the perpetuation of Wakes. Complaints were made in all directions of their evil tendency. The author of the Life of John Bruen (1641) laments that ‘Popery and Profannes, two sisters in evil, had consented and conspired in this parish, as in many other places, together to advance their idols against the arke of God, and to celebrate their solemne feastes of their Popish saints by their wakes and vigils, ... in all riot and excesse of eating and drinking.’

The outcry, it is evident, arose rather from the Puritan than the Temperance party, and became so irrepressible that at the Exeter assizes (1627), Chief Baron Walter and Baron Denham made an order for suppression of all wakes. Judge Richardson made a like order for the county of Somerset, 1631. But on Laud’s demurrer the King commanded this order[Pg 200] to be reversed; which the judge declining to do, a report was required by the bishop of the diocese how the feast days, church-ales, wakes, and revels were observed within his jurisdiction. On receipt of these instructions the bishop advised with seventy-two of the most able of his clergy, who certified that on these feast days the service of God was more solemnly performed than on any other days, that the people desired their continuance, as did also the ministers, for that they preserved the memorial of the dedication of their several churches, civilised the people, composed differences, tended to the increase of love and unity, and to the relief of the poor. On the delivery of this certificate Judge Richardson was cited, and peremptorily commanded to reverse his former order. After this, King Charles I. gave new force to his father’s declaration:—

We do ratify and publish this our blessed father’s decree, the rather because of late, in some counties of our kingdom, we find that under pretence of taking away abuses there hath been a general forbidding, not only of ordinary meetings, but of the feasts of the dedications of the churches, commonly called Wakes. Now his Majesty’s express will and pleasure is that these feasts, with others, shall be observed; and that his justices of the peace shall look to it, both that all disorders there may be prevented or punished, and that all neighbourhood and freedom, with manlike and lawful exercises, be used.

It should here be stated that malice even has not dared to impeach the private morals of Charles I. Chaste and temperate are epithets constantly applied to him. The most convincing testimony to the latter virtue is the statement of A. Wood, that the vintners illuminated at his death, made bonfires, and drank lusty carouses. He had evidently not favoured their trade; but the justice of his cause and the injustice of his treatment were engraven on many a publican’s sign[Pg 201], to which the ‘Mourning Crown and Mitre’ bore witness. The Mourning Bush was the sign set up by John Taylor, the ‘Water-Poet,’ over his tavern in Long Acre, to express his grief at the beheading of the King. But he was compelled to away with it; when, in its place, he put up the Poet’s Head, his own portrait, with this inscription:—

There is many a head hangs for a sign,
Then, gentle reader, why not mine?

The following is the testimony of Clarendon:—

As he (the king) excelled in all other virtues, so in temperance he was so strict, that he abhorred all debauchery to that degree, that at a great festival solemnity, where he once was, being told by one who withdrew from thence, what vast draughts of wine they drank, and that there was one earl who had drunk most of the rest down, and was not himself moved or altered, the king said that he deserved to be hanged; and that earl coming shortly after into the room where his Majesty was, in some gaiety, to show how unhurt he was from that battle, the king sent one to bid him withdraw from his Majesty’s presence; nor did he in some days after appear before him.

The following lines occur on the signboard of the inn near Hardwicke House, close to Caversham, where Charles I. was kept a prisoner:—

Stop! traveller, stop! In yonder peaceful glade
His favourite game the Royal Martyr played:
Here, stripped of honours—children—freedom—rank,—
Drank from the bowl, and bowled for what he drank;
Sought in a cheerful glass his cares to drown,
And changed his guinea, ere he lost his crown.

But, along with so many incentives to excess, were there no counteractive agencies at work? Th[Pg 202]e reply is that there were. Precept and law were neither silent nor inoperative. It was not for nothing that men like Jeremy Taylor and Usher, Milton and Crashaw, lived and wrote.

Of the first-named writer (chaplain to the king) two quotations must suffice.

Jeremy Taylor on Temperance.—Temperance hath an effect on the understanding, and makes the reason sober, and the will orderly, and the affections regular, and does things beside and beyond their natural and proper efficacy: for all the parts of our duty are watered with the showers of blessing, and bring forth fruit according to the influence of heaven, and beyond the capacities of nature.[142]

Jeremy Taylor on our Shortening our own Days.—In all the process of our health we are running to our grave: we open our own sluices by viciousness and unworthy actions; we pour in drink and let out life; we increase diseases and know not how to bear them; we strangle ourselves with our own intemperance; we suffer the fevers and the inflammations of lust, and we quench our souls with drunkenness: we bury our understandings in loads of meat and surfeits, and then we lie down on our beds, and roar with pain and disquietness of our souls.[143]

Archbishop Usher, treating of the seventh commandment, asks,—

How is this commandment broken in the abuse of meat and drink? Either in regard of the quality or quantity thereof. How in regard of the quantity? By excess, and intemperance in diet: when we ... give ourselves to surfeiting and drunkenness. What be the contrary duties here commanded? 1. Temperance, in using a sober and moderate diet, according to our ability.... 2. Convenient abstinence (1 Cor. ix. 27).[144]

Of Milton, Johnson says that—

His domestic habits, so far as they are known, were those of a [Pg 203]severe student. He drank little strong drink of any kind, and fed without excess in quantity, and in his earlier years without delicacy of choice.

But we should certainly infer, pace the good Doctor, that in his earlier years at least he was fond of wine, from his sonnet to Mr. Lawrence, which seems redolent of Horace in his Bacchanalian moods. The sonnet is intensely classical:—

To Mr. Lawrence.

Lawrence, of virtuous father virtuous son,
Now that the fields are dank and ways are mire,
Where shall we sometimes meet, and by the fire
Help waste a sullen day, what may be won
From the hard season gaining? Time will run
On smoother, till Favonius re-inspire
The frozen earth, and clothe in fresh attire
The lily and rose, that neither sow’d nor spun.
What neat repast shall feast us, light and choice,
Of Attic taste, with wine, whence we may rise
To hear the lute well touched, or artful voice
Warble immortal notes and Tuscan air?
He who of those delights can judge, and spare
To interpose them oft, is not unwise.

Also in L’Allegro we are rather disposed to think our poet shows that he was not altogether superior ‘to the spicy nut-brown ale.’ On the other hand, his—also Horatian—sonnet to Cyriac Skinner seems to suggest a somewhat similar idea to Cowper’s ‘cups that cheer but not inebriate,’ though they may refer to moderate drinking:—

To Cyriac Skinner.

Cyriac, whose grandsire, on the royal bench
Of British Themis, with no mean applause
Pronounced and in his volumes taught our laws,
Which others at their bar so often wrench;
[Pg 204]To-day deep thoughts resolve with me to drench
In mirth that after no repenting draws.

On the other hand, he could be no friend to excess who in Paradise Lost, book i., thus speaks of Belial:—

In courts and palaces he also reigns,
And in luxurious cities, where the noise
Of riot ascends above their loftiest towers,
And injury and outrage; and when night
Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons
Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.

And again:—

Intemperance on the earth shall bring
Diseases dire, of which a monstrous crew
Before thee shall appear!

What an advocate of prohibition was he who could write,—

What more foul common sin among us than drunkenness? Who can be ignorant that if the importation of wine were forbid, it would both clean rid the possibility of committing that odious vice, and men might afterwards live happily and healthfully without the use of intoxicating liquors!

Richard Crashaw, of whom it was writ,—

Poet and saint! to thee alone are given
The two most sacred names of earth and heaven,

reckons amongst his many efforts of genius, Temperance, or the Cheap Physician, where, after ridiculing the doctors’ mystic compositions, he asks,—

And what at last shall gain by these?
Only a costlier disease.
That which makes us have no need
Of physic, that’s physic indeed.

It may be remembered that this poet was the author of the epigram whose last line runs,—

[Pg 205]

Lympha pudica Deum vidit, et erubuit.
The modest water saw its God, and blushed.

This epigram was composed by Crashaw when Dryden was an infant, so should not be attributed to the latter.

Some noble lines of the poet James Nicholson are well worthy of record:—

Our homes are invaded with dark desolation,
There’s danger wherever the wine-cup doth flow;
Then pledge your fair hands to resist the temptation,
Nor stain your red lips with those waters of woe.
Lift up your bright glances, put on all your beauty—
Your holy affections—your God-given dower;
Such weapons are mighty—awake to your duty,
The trophies you gather will add to your power.

And, once more,—

I’ll pledge thee not in wassail bowl,
With rosy madness filled;
But let us quaff the nobler wine,
By Nature’s hand distilled.
Where to the skies the mountains rise
In grandeur to the view,
Where sparkling rills leap down the hills,
Our Scotia’s mountain dew.

Thomas Weaver, 1649, writes,—

The harms and mischiefs which th’abuse
Of wine doth every day produce,
Make good the doctrine of the Turks,
That in each grape a devil lurks.

Divines like Hugh Peters declaimed from the pulpit against intemperance. Archbishop Harsnet, founder of Chigwell School, left the regulation respecting the head master, that he be ‘no tippler, no haunter of ale-houses, no puffer of tobacco.’

In addition to abundance of precept, some legislative action is noticeable.

[Pg 206]

In 1627 (3 Charles I.) a fine of twenty shillings, or whipping, is imposed for keeping an ale-house without licence.

In 1687 the vintners were called upon to submit to a tax of a penny a quart upon all the wine they retailed. As they repudiated the demand, a decree was passed in the Star Chamber forbidding them to sell or dress victuals in their houses. Two years after, they were questioned for the breach of this decree, and to avoid punishment they consented to lend the king six thousand pounds, subsequently entering into a composition to pay half the duty which was at first demanded of them.

An Act of 1688 prohibits the retailing of wine in bottles—an Act which must have fostered adulteration. Light wines will not keep long in the cask, and if not bottled at the proper time become useless. The dealer, to avert loss, adopts preventive measures. The door is at once open to fraud and adulteration. Complaints of the latter became now common.

Wines had risen greatly in price. An order in Council of 1633 directs that Canary, Muskadells, and Alligant should be sold in gross at 17l. a pipe, and at 12d. the quart by retail; Sacks and Malaga at 10d. the quart; the best Gascoigne and French wines at 6d. the quart.

In 1643 was established the excise, which was introduced, on the model of the Dutch prototype, by the Parliament after its rupture with the Crown. Originally established in 1643, its progress was gradual, being at first laid upon those persons and commodities where it was supposed that the shoe would least pinch—viz. the makers and venders of ale, beer, cider, and perry. The Royalists at Oxford followed the example set them at Westminster, and imposed a similar duty; both sides protesting that it should be continued no longer than [Pg 207]to the end of the war, and then be abolished. But the Parliament soon after extended its application to many other commodities, and in course of time these champions of liberty declared the impost of excise to be the most easy and indifferent levy that could be laid upon the people, and so continued it during their usurpation. It was afterwards made hereditary to the Crown. Mr. Pymme is considered to have been the father of this impost.

Doubtless there was great occasion for the committee of 1641, which inquired into the general state of the clergy. That there was intemperance in many quarters cannot be denied; but something must be put down to the spirit of the time. Drink was an accessory of everything, and self-restraint was not a constant factor; there could be only one result. The tree was bad, the fruit was bad. That the following extract is now regarded as a curiosity, is itself a proof of very altered manners. The items are taken from the Darlington parochial registers:—

1639. For Mr. Thompson that preached the forenoon and afternoon, for a quart of sack, 14d. 1650. For six quarts of sack to the minister that preached when we had not a minister, 9s. 1666. For one quart of sack bestowed on Mr. Gillet, when he preached, 2s. 4d. 1691. For a pint of brandy, when Mr. George Bell preached here, 1s. 4d.; when the Dean of Durham preached here, spent in a treat with him, 3s. 6d. For a stranger that preached, a dozen of ale, 12d.

We here pause for a moment to listen to some very thoughtful remarks of Howell, contained in a long epistle to Lord Cliffe, upon the subject of comparative drinkdom.[Pg 208] He writes:—

It is without controversy that in the nonage of the world, men and beasts had but one buttery, which was the fountain and river, nor do we read of any vines or wines till two hundred years after the flood; but now I do not know or hear of any nation that hath water only for their drink, except the Japanese, and they drink it hot too; but we may say that whatever beverage soever we make, either by brewing, by distillation, decoction, percolation, or pressing, it is but water at first; nay, wine itself is but water sublimed, being nothing else but that moisture and sap which is caused either by rain or other kind of irrigations about the roots of the vine, and drawn up to the branches and berries by the virtual attractive heat of the sun, the bowels of the earth serving as an alembic to that end, which made the Italian vineyard-man (after a long drought, and an extreme hot summer which had parched up all his grapes) to complain, ‘For want of water I am forced to drink water; if I had water I would drink wine:’ it may also be applied to the miller, when he has no water to drive his mills. The vine doth so abhor cold, that it cannot grow beyond the 49th degree to any purpose; therefore God and nature hath furnished the north-west nations with other inventions of beverage. In this island the old drink was ale, noble ale, than which, as I heard a great foreign doctor affirm, there is no liquor that more increaseth the radical moisture, and preserves the natural heat, which are the two pillars that support the life of man. But since beer hath hopped in amongst us, ale is thought to be much adulterated, and nothing so good as Sir John Oldcastle and Smugg the smith was used to drink. Besides ale and beer, the natural drink of part of this isle may be said to be metheglin, braggot, and mead, which differ in strength according to the three degrees of comparison. The first of the three, which is strong in the superlative if taken immoderately, doth stupefy more than any other liquor, and keeps a humming in the brain, which made one say, that he loved not metheglin because he was used to speak too much of the house he came from, meaning the hive. Cider and perry are also the natural drinks of parts of this isle.

The condition of things underwent no material change during the Commonwealth and Protectorate, notwithstanding the special pleading of political partisanship.[Pg 209] The state of morals in England and its capital is accurately described in a letter to a French nobleman during the Protectorate:—

There is within this city [London] and in all the towns of England which I have passed through, so prodigious a number of houses where they sell a certain drink called ale, that I think a good half of the inhabitants may be denominated ale-house keepers. These are a meaner sort of cabarets. But what is more deplorable, there the gentlemen sit and spend much of their time, drinking of a muddy kind of beverage, and tobacco, which has universally besotted the nation, and at which I hear they have consumed many noble estates. As for other taverns London is composed of them, where they drink Spanish wines, and other sophisticated liquors, to that fury and intemperance, as has often amazed me to consider it. But thus some mean fellow, the drawer, arrives to an estate, some of them having built fair houses, and purchased those gentlemen out of their possessions, who have ruined themselves by that base and dishonourable vice of ebriety. And that nothing may be wanting to the height of luxury and impiety of this abomination, they have translated the organs out of their churches to set them up in taverns; chanting their dithyrambics and bestial bacchanalias to the tune of those instruments which were wont to assist them in the celebration of God’s praises, and regulate the voices of the worst singers in the world, which are the English in their churches at present.... A great error undoubtedly in those who sit at the helm, to permit this scandal; to suffer so many of these taverns and occasions of intemperance, such leeches and vipers, to gratify so sordid and base a sort of people with the spoils of honest and well-natured men. Your lordship will not believe me, that the ladies of greatest quality suffer themselves to be treated in one of these taverns, where a courtezan in other cities would scarcely vouchsafe to be entertained. But you will be more astonished when I shall assure you that they drink their crowned cups roundly, strain healths through their smocks, dance after the fiddle, &c. Drinking is the afternoon’s diversion; whether for want of a better, to employ the time, or affection to the drink, I know not. But I have found some persons of quality whom one could not safely visit after dinner, without resolving to undergo this drink-ordeal. It is esteemed a piece of wit to make a man drunk, for which some swilling insipid client or congiary is a frequent and[Pg 210] constant adjutant.

And later on, in order to contrast the two countries, the writer adds:—

I don’t remember, my lord, ever to have known (or very rarely) a health drank in France, no, not the King’s; and if we say, à votre santé, Monsieur, it neither expects pledge or ceremony. ‘Tis here so the custom to drink to every one at the table, that by the time a gentleman has done his duty to the whole company, he is ready to fall asleep, whereas with us, we salute the whole table with a single glass only.[145]

Other writers of the time notice the participation of the women in the general drinking. M. Jorevin, another French author, writes of a Worcester hotel:—

According to the custom of the country, the landladies sup with the strangers and passengers, and if they have daughters they are also of the company, to entertain the guests at table with pleasant conceits, where they drink as much as the men; but what is to me the most disgusting in all this is, that when one drinks the health of any person in company, the custom of the country does not permit you to drink more than half the cup, which is filled up and presented to him or her whose health you have drunk.[146]

John Evelyn tells of the execrable habit of making servants drunk. He remarks, under date July 19, 1654:—

Went back to Cadenham, and on the 19th to Sir Ed. Baynton’s at Spie Park, a place capable of being made a noble seate; but the humorous old knight has built a long single house of 2 low stories on the precipice of an incomparable prospect, and looking on a [Pg 211]bowling greene in the park. The house is like a long barne, and has not a window on the prospect side. After dinner they went to bowles, and in the meanetime our coachmen were made so exceedingly drunk, that in returning home we escap’d greate dangers. This it seems was by order of the knight, that all gentlemen’s servants be so treated; but the custome is a barbarous one, and much unbecoming a knight, still lesse a Christian.

The same sort of thing happened to Evelyn again, March 18, 1669:—

I went with Lord Howard of Norfolk to visit Sir William Ducie at Charlton, where we din’d; the servants made our coachmen so drunk that they both fell off their boxes on the heath, where we were fain to leave them, and were driven to London by two servants of my Lord’s. This barbarous custom of making the masters welcome by intoxicating the servants had now the second time happen’d to my coachmen.

[The italics are not Evelyn’s.]

A writer, by name Joseph Rigbie, slashingly exposes intemperance and its incentives, the tavern and toasting:—

The tap-house fits them for a jaile,
The jaile to the gibbet sends them without faile;
For those that through a lattice sang of late
You oft find crying through an iron grate.

And again:—

Yea every cup is fast to others wedged.
They always double drink, they must be pledged.
He that begins, how many so’er they be,
Looks that each one do drink as much as he.

And further on, to the same effect:—

Oh! how they’ll wind men in, do what they can,
By drinking healths, first unto such a man,
Then unto such a woman! Then they’ll send
[Pg 212]An health to each man’s mistresse or his friend;
Then to their kindreds or their parents deare,
They needs must have the other jug of beere;
Then to their captains and commanders stout,
Who for to pledge they think none shall stand out;
Last to the king and queen they’ll have a cruse.
Whom for to pledge they think none dare refuse.[147]

‘We seem,’ wrote Reeve in his Plea for Nineveh, quoted in Malcolm’s Manners and Customs of London, i. p. 286, ‘to be steeped in liquors, or to be the dizzy island. We drink as if we were nothing but sponges ... or had tunnels in our mouths.... We are the grape-suckers of the earth.’

That the ignorant and thoughtless should have been swept into this vortex of dissipation is not surprising, but one marvels that a man of power, and in some sort a philosopher, should have stooped to translate an utterly frivolous and worthless poem of St. Amant, of which a mere quotation is sickening:—

Wine, my boy; we’ll sing and laugh,
All night revel, rant, and quaff;
Till the morn stealing behind us,
At the table sleepless find us.
When our bones (alas!) shall have
A cold lodging in the grave;
When swift death shall overtake us,
We shall sleep and none can wake us.
Drink we then the juice o’ the vine,
Make our breasts Lyæus’ shrine;
Bacchus, our debauch beholding,
By thy image I am moulding,
Whilst my brains I do replenish
With this draught of unmixed Rhenish;
By thy full-branched ivy twine;
By this sparkling glass of wine;
By thy thyrsus so renowned,
By the healths with which th’art crowned;
[Pg 213]    *    *    *    *
To thy frolic order call us,
Knights of the deep bowl install us;
And to shew thyself divine,
Never let it want for wine.

It would be thoroughly to the liking of such a patient that Dr. Tobias Whitaker (1638) should publish his Blood of the Grape, ‘proving the possibility of maintaining Life from Infancy to Old Age without Sickness, by the Use of Wine.’

In point of sobriety the Cavaliers have often been unfavourably contrasted with the Roundheads. The evidence for this, apart from mere recrimination (which in this case is a two-edged sword), has yet to be produced. The manners of the two factions were doubtless diverse. ‘Your friends, the Cavaliers,’ said a Roundhead to a Royalist, ‘are very dissolute and debauched.’ ‘True,’ replied the Royalist, ‘they have the infirmities of men; but your friends the Roundheads have the vices of devils—tyranny, rebellion, and spiritual pride.’ We would fain hope that they were sober all round, and that Cromwell’s description of his troops was unassailable. The mother of Cromwell set up the brewery at Huntingdon which is still flourishing. It was this slight connection with ‘the trade’ which gained for Cromwell the agnomen of ‘the brewer.’

The story is told, ‘a tradition’ (Hume), that one day sitting at table, the Protector had a bottle of wine brought him, of a kind which he valued so highly that he must needs open the bottle himself; but, in attempting it, the corkscrew dropt from his hand. Immediately his courtiers and generals flung themselves on the floor to recover it. Cromwell burst out laughing. ‘Should any fool,’ said he, ‘put in his head at the door, he would fancy, from your posture, that you were seeking the Lord, and you are only seeking a corkscrew.’ One[Pg 214] sees here that Cromwell is addressing his ‘men of religion.’ There was much of it real or unreal; and a curious monument of the fashion then prevalent of giving sacred names to everything and everybody is furnished by the tavern sign of the ‘Goat and Compasses,’ which reveals the naked truth that ‘Praise God Barebones’ preferred drinking his tankard of ale at the tavern whose sign was ‘God encompasseth us’ to any other ale-house. On the other hand it should be noted that, according to the late Thomas Carlyle’s Letters and Speeches of Cromwell, ‘the stories of his wild living while in town ... rest exclusively on Carrion Heath.... Of evidence that he ever lived a wild life about town, or elsewhere, there exists no particle.’

The funeral of the Protector is thus described by Evelyn:—

It was the joyfullest funerall I ever saw, for there were none that cried but dogs, while the soldiers hooted away with a barbarous noise, drinking and taking tobacco in the streetes as they went.

Club life was becoming more and more unfavourable to sobriety. The ‘Everlasting Club,’ instituted during the Civil War, was especially bibulous and riotous. So much so, that a good-for-nothing devotee of the bottle was satirically dubbed a member of that club. A writer cited by Timbs notes that ‘since their first institution they have smoked fifty tons of tobacco, drank thirty thousand butts of ale, one thousand hogsheads of red port, two hundred barrels of brandy, and one kilderkine of small beer.’ They sat night and day, one party relieving another. The fire was never allowed to go out, being perpetuated by an old woman in the nature of a Vestal. The delight of the members was in ‘old catches which they sang at all hours, to encourage one another to moisten their clay, and grow immortal by drinking.’

[Pg 215]

But Eastern products were soon to create a revolution in the national diet. Sir Anthony Shirley, one of the celebrated trio of brothers, travellers, when he arrived at Aleppo in 1598, first tasted a drink that he described as being made of a seed which will ‘soon intoxicate the brain,’ and which, though nothing toothsome, was wholesome: this was coffee. In 1650 was opened at Oxford the first coffee-house by Jacobs, a Jew, at the Angel, in the parish of St. Peter in the East; and there it was, by some who delighted in novelty, drunk. Hence the antiquary Oldys is incorrect in stating that the use of coffee in England was first known in 1657.

Mr. Edwards, a Turkey merchant, brought from Smyrna to London one Pasqua Rosee, a Ragusan youth, who prepared this drink for him every morning. But the novelty thereof drawing too much company to him, he allowed his said servant, with another of his son-in-law, to sell it publicly, and they set up the first coffee-house in London in St. Michael’s Alley in Cornhill.[148]

Of course it was a panacea for all ills. An original handbill of Rosee’s, headed, ‘The Vertue of the Coffee Drink,’ thus sounds its praises:—

The quality of this drink is cold and dry; and though it be a drier, yet it neither heats nor inflames more than hot posset. It so encloseth the orifice of the stomach, and fortifies the heat within, that it is very good to help digestion; and therefore of great use to be taken about three or four o’clock afternoon, as well as in the morning. It much quickens the spirits, and makes the heart lightsome; it is good against sore eyes, and the better if you hold your head over it and take in the steam that way. It suppresseth fumes exceedingly, and therefore is good against the headache, and will very much stop any defluxion of rheums that distil from the head upon the stomach, and so prevent and help consumptions and the cough of the lungs. It is excellent to prevent and cure the dropsy, gout, and scurvy.... It is better than any other drying drink for people in years, or children that have any running humours upon them, as the king’s evil, &c. It is a most excellent remedy against [Pg 216]the spleen, hypochondriac winds, and the like. It will prevent drowsiness.... It is observed that in Turkey, where this is generally drunk, that they are not troubled with the stone, gout, dropsy, or scurvy, and that their skins are exceeding clear and white. It is neither laxative nor restringent.

And indeed its virtues must have been generally conceded, for it became fashionable in the reign of Charles II., and is thus alluded to by Pope, who attributes to it an additional virtue:—

Coffee, which makes the politician wise,
And see through all things with his half-shut eyes.[149]

The authors of the History of Signboards state that the ‘Rainbow,’ in Fleet Street, opposite Chancery Lane, is the oldest coffee-house in London:—

I find it recorded that one James Farr, a barber, who kept the coffee-house, which is now the Rainbow, by the Inner Temple gate (one of the first in England), was, in the year 1657, presented by the inquest of St. Dunstan’s in the West, for making and selling a sort of liquor called Coffee, as a great nuisance and prejudice to the neighbourhood, &c., and who would have thought London would ever have had near three thousand such nuisances, and that coffee would have been (as now) so much drank by the best of quality and physicians.

The presentation here alluded to is still preserved among the records of St. Sepulchre’s church. It says:—

We present James Farr, barber, for making and selling a drink called coffee, whereby, in making the same, he annoyeth his neighboors by evill smells, and for keeping of fire the most part night and day, whereby his chimney and chamber has been set on fire, to the great danger and affreightment of his neighboors.[150]

Roger North, attorney-general to James II., says:—

[Pg 217]

The use of coffee-houses seems newly improved by a new invention called chocolate houses, for the benefit of rooks and cullies of all the quality; where gaming is added to all the rest, ... as if the devil had erected a new university, and those were the colleges of its professors, as well as his school of discipline.[151]

Chocolate was advertised as a new drink in 1657:—

In Bishopsgate Street in Queen’s Head Alley, at a Frenchman’s house, is an excellent West India drink called chocolate to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time, and also unmade, at reasonable rates.

The reputation of chocolate upon its introduction was fluctuating. This appears in the letters of Madame de Sévigné, who at one time recommends it to her daughter with all fervour, whilst at other times she decries it as the root of all evil.

But however much the introduction into our country of such drinks was destined to discover a rival to intoxicants, the fact remains that the public taste had by the habit of long ages become vitiated, and England had earned for herself the distinction of the ‘land of drunkards.’

True it is that the Protector strove to repress intemperance by fines and punishments. The rigid restrictions of the republican rule were manifested in the strict surveillance maintained over the people, with the view of securing temperance. Convictions for drunkenness were of daily occurrence; and it was often the practice to remove all doubts of the sufficiency of testimony by producing the delinquent in court under the influence of drink. Many are the instances in which it is recorded by the convicting justice that some offender was ‘drunk in my view.’ They were in the habit, moreover, of making nice distinctions as to the grades of intoxication.

The ‘drunkard’s cloak’ was an instrument of punishment [Pg 218]then in use, which might with advantage be revived. It was a cask with a hole at the top, through which the drunkard’s head protruded, and one on each side for either hand. The legs were free for the offender to perambulate with the instrument of disgrace about him.[152]

Some strong language was uttered from the pulpit against drunkenness. Dr. Robert Harris, President of Trinity College, Oxford, in the dedication to the Drunkard’s Cup, a sermon, speaks of the ars bibendi as having become a great profession:—

There are lawes and ceremonies to be observed both by the firsts and seconds. There is a drinking by the foot, by the yard, &c., a drinking by the douzens, by the scores, &c., for the wager, for the victory, man against man, house against house, town against town. There are also terms of art, fetched from hell, for the better distinguishing of the practitioners; one is coloured, another is foxt, a third is gone to the dogs, &c.

In the sermon he speaks of ‘the strange saucinesse of base vermine, in tossing the name of his most excellent Majesty in their foaming mouthes, and in daring to make that a shooing-horne to draw on drink by drinking healths to him.’[153]

Dr. Grindrod draws attention in his Bacchus to a prominent appeal of about the same date entitled, The Blemish of Government, the Shame of Religion, the Disgrace of Mankind: ‘or, a charge drawn up against Drunkards, and presented to his highness the Lord Protector, in the name of all the sober party in the three nations,’ by R. Younge. The book is not procurable; but assuming the quotation to be correct the statistic is astounding:—

[Pg 219]

It is sad to consider how many will hear this charge for one that will apply it to himself, for confident I am that fifteen of twenty, this city over [London] are drunkards, yea, seducing drunkards, in the dialect of Scripture, and by the law of God which extends to the heart and the affections.... Perhaps by the law of the land, a man is not taken for drunk except his eyes stare, his tongue stutter, his legs stagger; but by God’s law, he is one that goes often to the drink, or that tarries long at it (Prov. xxiii. 30, 31). He that will be drawn to drink when he hath neither need of it nor mind to it, to the spending of money, wasting of precious time, discredit of the Gospel, the stumbling-block of weak ones, and hardening associates ... is a drunkard.

Presuming that Younge’s statement is at all within the mark, it will account for the effort put forth at the London sessions in 1654, wherein it was ordered that ‘no new licences shall be granted for two years.’

Great was the magnificence of the pageant upon the restoration of King Charles II. The conduits flowed with a ‘variety of delicious wines.’ At the Stocks was a fountain, of the Tuscan order, ‘venting wine.’ The event was commemorated at Charing Cross by the sign of the Pageant Tavern, which represented the triumphal arch there and then erected, and which remained some time after. Various were the forms that exuberance assumed. At the rejoicings at Edinburgh for the Restoration, at the Lord Provost’s return he was at every bonfire complimented with the breaking of glasses—one of the concomitant formalities of toasting.

Beyond the natural outburst of rejoicing at so great an occasion, there is abundant corroboration of the remark of Fosbroke, that ‘drinking healths was uncommonly prevalent, and productive of much intemperance, immediately after and on account of t[Pg 220]he Restoration.’ Royalty will be always prominently recognised at our public rejoicings, as a matter of course, and of right. May the health of the Sovereign and Royal Family always be proposed! Always, when the concomitant of drinking it has become obsolete.[154] What a volume could be written on the customs which have gathered about the toasting of our monarchs alone! One of these comes at once to mind in connection with the Second Charles. Pepys, in his Diary (1662-3), describes his own dining at ‘Chirurgeons’ Hall.’ He tells that:—

Among other observables we drunk the King’s health out of a gilt cup given by King Henry VIII. to this Company, with bells hanging at it, which every man is to ring by shaking after he hath drunk up the whole cup.

Another curious circumstance will be mentioned presently in connection with the toasting his successor, James.

But it is time again to review the material of all this rejoicing. At this period of the seventeenth century the importation of French wines into England was two-fifths of her consumption.[155] Mr. Cyrus Redding states that in 1675, there came to England 7,495 tuns of French wine to 20 of those of Portugal; and in 1676 no less than 9,645 French, to 83 Portuguese; soon after which date French wines were prohibited for seven years.[156]

Navarre wine, which the same author mentions among other wines of the Basses Pyrénées as of good [Pg 221]quality, was coming into fashion. Pepys mentions his dining at Whitehall with the Duke of York, who did ‘mightily commend some new sort of wine lately found out, called Navarr wine, which I tasted, and is, I think, good wine.’ Bacharach was becoming a favourite Rhenish wine. Redding tells that German writers pretend that this Bacharach derived its name from the deity of wine, a stone still existing in the river, which they call Bacchus’ altar.

The famous author of Hudibras introduces us to the names of some of these wines which had recently come into vogue:—

Those win the day that win the race;
And that which would not pass in fights,
Has done the feats with easy flights,
Recover’d many a desp’rate campaign
With Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champaign;
Restor’d the fainting high and mighty
With brandy, wine, and aqua vitæ;
And made ‘em stoutly overcome
With Bacchrach, Hockamore, and Mum.

What a satirist was Butler, of drink, drinkers, everybody!

Of drink:—

Drink has overwhelmed and drowned,
Far greater numbers on dry ground,
Of wretched mankind, one by one,
Than e’er the flood before had done.

Of drinkers—e.g. ‘on a Club of Sots’:—

The jolly members of a toping club,
[Pg 222]Like pipestaves, are but hooped into a tub,
And in a close confederacy link
For nothing else but only to hold drink.

Of everybody (to whom he was politically opposed)—appealing to the Muse:—

Thou that with ale, or viler liquors,
Didst inspire Withers, Prynne, and Vickers,
And force them, though it was in spite
Of Nature, and their stars, to write.[157]

Other light wines are sung of in John Oldham’s Works (1684):—

Let wealthy merchants when they dine,
Run o’er their witty names of wine:
Their chests of Florence and their Mont Alchine,
Their Mants, Champaigns, Chablees, Frontiniacks tell;
Their aums of Hock, of Backrag, and Mosell.

No wonder that the doctors complained that their efforts would be fruitless to patch up constitutions so utterly weather-beaten by heat and wet, as we find from Sir Charles Sedley’s The Doctor and his Patients, where it is told of the family Æsculapius:—

One day he called ‘em all together,
And, one by one, he asked ‘em whether
It were not better by good diet
To keep the blood and humours quiet,
With toast and ale to cool their brains
Than nightly fire ‘em with Champains.

And whilst these wines were injurious to their bodies they failed to give any real or permanent relief to their minds, as even the licentious tragedian of the period, Etheridge, admitted:—

At the plays we are constantly making our court,
And when they are ended we follow the sport
To the Mall and the Park,
[Pg 223]Where we love till ‘tis dark;
Then Sparkling Champagne
Puts an end to their reign;
It quickly recovers
Poor languishing lovers;
Makes us frolic and gay, and drowns all our sorrow;
But alas! we relapse again on the morrow.[158]

We obtain an incidental estimate of the market price of French wine from the Tatler, No. 147, where we read:—

Upon my coming home last night, I found a very handsome present of French wine left for me, as a taste—of 216 hogsheads which are to be put to sale at 20l. a hogshead, at Garraway’s coffee-house, in Exchange Alley.

These wines were sold by the candlei.e. the property was put up by the auctioneer, an inch of candle was lighted, and the last bidder when the light went out was the purchaser.

English vineyards were still here and there attempted. Thus Evelyn (Diary, 1655) ‘went to see Col. Blount’s subterranean warren, and drank of the wine of his vineyard, which was good for little.’

The consumption of French Brandy was very great, and discontent was excited from the notion that the country was suffering from the lack of encouragement to home distillation; permission was accordingly granted to a company to distil brandy from wine and malt.

Besides wine and brandy, ale was drunk in various forms.

Chamberlayne states that in 1667 no less than 1,522,781 barrels of beer were brewed in the city of London, each of them containing from 32 to 36 gallons, and that the amount yearly brewed in London had since risen to nearly 2,000,000 barrels; and that the excise for London was farmed out for 120,000l. a year.[159]

[Pg 224]

Jorevin de Rochefort, whose travels were published at Paris in 1672, says:—‘The English beer is the best in Europe’ (Antiquarian Repertory, vol. iv. p. 607). At Cambridge he had a visit from the clergyman, ‘during which,’ says he, ‘it was necessary to drink two or three pots of beer during our parley; for no kind of business is transacted in England without the intervention of pots of beer.’

At this time people frequently ate no supper but took buttered ale, composed of sugar, cinnamon, butter, and beer brewed without hops. It was put into a cup, set before the fire to heat, and drunk hot.

Cider was again coming into fashion. Butler (Hudibras) tells of Sidrophel that he knew—

... in what sign best sider’s made.

The manufacture being of sufficient moment for reference to astrology.

A new liquor now introduced from Brunswick was a sort of strong beer called Mum, or, sometimes, Brunswick Mum. The word has been derived from mummeln, to mumble, or from the onomatopœic mum, denoting silence, and from Christian Mummer by whom it was first brewed. It was brewed chiefly from malt made from wheat instead of barley. Pope writes of it:—

The clamorous crowd is hush’d with mugs of mum,
Till all, tuned equal, send a general hum.

This foreign drink was rivalled by Dorset beer.[160]

Lastly, we hear still of Metheglin. Pepys (1666) describes his dining with the king’s servants from meat that came from his Majesty’s table, ‘with most brave drink, cooled in ice; and I, drinking no wine, had metheglin, for the king’s own drinking, which did please [Pg 225]me mightilye.’ It was an article of excise.

A good deal has been made of what is termed the reaction in morals after the republican spell. For instance, Mr. Samuelson says (Hist. of Drink):—

These extreme measures of repression on the part of the Puritans led to the result which might be anticipated. They gave courage to those who were anxious for the return of royalty, and reconciled many to its reinstatement who would otherwise have struggled for the maintenance of republican institutions; and when Charles II. was once more safely enthroned, there followed a reaction in morals which has left to that period the unenviable notoriety of being the most corrupt and dissolute in the whole history of our country.

One would almost imagine from this, and kindred statements, that vice was unknown to the Protector and his adherents; whereas it is matter of history that Cromwell’s early life was dissolute and disorderly, and that he consumed in gaming, drinking, debauchery, and country riots, the more early years of his youth.[161] The Roundheads liked ale as well as the Cavaliers. Does not Pepys tell of Monk’s troops (Feb. 13, 1659):—‘The city is very open-handed to the soldiers; they are most of them drunk all day’? Surely, then, bias must have possessed Lord Macaulay when he would have us believe that ‘in the Puritan camp no drunkenness was seen.’ Some prefer the evidence of a contemporary.

It is possible to contrast the Courts of the two Charleses, and the contrast is terrible; but was no one responsible besides Charles II. for his wandering life, when he herded with inferiors? If he was a creature of frailty and vice, he was also a creature of circumstance.

Thus much prefaced, let it be freely admitted that drunkenness prevailed in every rank of society, and that the king set the example. Mr. Samuelson adduces from [Pg 226]Evelyn, as an instance, a supper given by the Duke of Buckingham when the Prince of Orange was over on a visit, on which occasion the king made the prince drink hard (though he could not have required much making), under the influence of which, the Dutchman broke the windows of the chambers of the maids of honour, with other mischiefs.

Nor does the famous story in the Spectator impress us with his bias towards temperance. The king had been dining with the Lord Mayor at Guildhall, where his cups did not prevent his observing that conviviality had occasioned familiarity; whereupon, with an abrupt farewell, he left the banquet. The mayor pursued the monarch, overtook him in the courtyard, and swore that he should not go till they had ‘drunk t’other bottle!’ The airy monarch looked kindly at him over his shoulder, and, with a smile and graceful air, repeated the line of the old song:—

And the man that is drunk is as great as a king!

and immediately turned back and complied with his host’s bidding.

But the veil is more thoroughly lifted by Pepys, who notes:—

September 23, 1667.—With Sir H. Cholmly to Westminster; who by the way told me how merry the King and Duke of York and Court were the other day, when they were abroad a-hunting. They came to Sir G. Cartaret’s house at Cranbourne, and there were entertained and all made drunk; and, being all drunk, Armerer did come to the king, and swore to him ‘By God, sir,’ says he, ‘you are not so kind to the Duke of York of late as you used to be.’ ‘Not I?’ says the king. ‘Why so?’ ‘Why,’ says he, ‘if you are, let us drink his health.’ ‘Why let us,’ says the king. Then he fell on his knees and drank it; and having done, the king [Pg 227]began to drink it. ‘Nay, sir,’ says Armerer, ‘by God, you must do it on your knees!’ So he did, and then all the company: and having done it, all fell a-crying for joy, being all maudlin and kissing one another, the king the Duke of York, and the Duke of York the king; and in such a maudlin pickle as never people were: and so passed the day.

Again he writes (1661):—

At Court things are in very ill condition, there being so much emulacion, poverty, and the vices of drinking, swearing, and loose amours, that I know not what will be the end of it but confusion.

Two of the notables about Court have already been alluded to. Rochester—that is, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester—in the language of Dr. Johnson, ‘blazed out his youth and his health in lavish voluptuousness,’ dying at the age of thirty-three. Some lines of his favour the notion that the origin of the term toasting, as given in the Tatler, may be the correct one. They are:—

Make it so large that, fill’d with sack
Up to the swelling brim,
Vast toasts on the delicious lake,
Like ships at sea, may swim.

A confirmation of the same may be derived from a verse of Warton:—

My sober evening let the tankard bless,
With toast embrown’d, and fragrant nutmeg fraught,
While the rich draught, with oft-repeated whiffs,
Tobacco mild improves.

Of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, the criticism of Dryden must suffice—lines well known:—

Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong,
Was everything by starts and nothing long.
[Pg 228]But in the course of one revolving moon,
Was chymist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon.
Then all for women, paintings, rhyming, drinking,
Besides ten thousand freaks that died in thinking.

Another drinking notoriety was Charles Sackville, Earl of Dorset (n. 1637, ob. 1684).

One of his frolics [says Dr. Johnson] has by the industry of Wood come down to posterity. Sackville, who was then Lord Buckhurst, with Sir Charles Sedley and Sir Thomas Ogle, got drunk at the Cock in Bow Street, by Covent Garden, and going into the balcony utterly disgraced themselves. The public indignation was awakened; the crowd attempted to force the door, and being repulsed drove in the performers with stones, and broke the windows of the house. For this misdemeanour they were indicted, and Sedley was fined five hundred pounds: what was the sentence of the others is not known. Sedley employed Killigrew and another to procure a remission from the king; but (mark the friendship of the dissolute) they begged the fine for themselves, and exacted it to the last groat.

Lord Macaulay, in his History of England, chap. vi. has the following description of the same disgraceful event:—

The morals of Sedley were such as even in that age gave great scandal. He on one occasion, after a wild revel, exhibited himself without a shred of clothing in the balcony of a tavern near Covent Garden, and harangued the people who were passing in language so indecent and profane that he was driven in by a shower of brickbats, was prosecuted for a misdemeanour, was sentenced to a heavy fine, and was reprimanded by the Court of King’s Bench in the most cutting terms.

It is perfectly clear that the higher motives for restraint were lacking, though expediency acted as a curb upon occasions. The following passage from Evelyn’s Diary will serve as an illustration:—

October 30, 1682.—I was invited to dine with Mons. Lionberg, the Swedish Resident, who made a magnificent entertainment, it being the birthday of his king. There dined the Duke of Alb[Pg 229]emarle, D. of Hamilton, Earle of Bathe, E. of Aylesbury, Lord Arran, Lord Castlehaven, the sonn of him who was executed 50 yeares before, and several greate persons. I was exceeding afraide of drinking (it being a Dutch feast), but the Duke of Albemarle, being that night to waite on his Majestie, excesse was prohibited; and to prevent all, I stole away and left the company as soone as we rose from table.

[Italics not in the original.]

From the same author we find that the same vice beset women of rank. The Duchess of Mazarine, he observes, is reported to have hastened her death by intemperate drinking of strong spirits.

The Lower House of Parliament seems to have been infected with the moral distemper. Evelyn writes:—

December 19, 1666.—Among other things Sir R. Ford did make me understand how the House of Commons is a beast not to be understood, it being impossible to know beforehand the success almost of any small plain thing.... He did tell me, and so did Sir W. Batten, how Sir Allen Brodericke and Sir Allen Apsly did come drunk the other day into the House, and did both speak for half an hour together, and could not be either laughed, or pulled, or bid to sit down and hold their peace, to the great contempt of the king’s servants and cause; which I am grieved at with all my heart.

(What made this worse was that Sir Allen Brodericke was an official—Surveyor-General in Ireland to his Majesty.)

But there was a vast amount of drinking that is really intemperance, though it passes under another name. Very apposite are the words of a contemporary, Sir William Temple:—

Temperance, that virtue without pride, and fortune without envy; ... the best guardian of youth, and support of old age; the precept of reason as well as religion; and physician of the soul as well as the body; the tutelar goddess of health, an[Pg 230]d universal medicine of life, that clears the head and cleanses the blood, that eases the stomach, and purges the bowels, that strengthens the nerves, enlightens the eyes, and comforts the heart; in a word, that secures and perfects the digestion.... I do not allow the pretence of temperance to all such as are seldom or never drunk, or fall into surfeits; for men may lose their health without losing their senses, and be intemperate every day, without being drunk perhaps once in their lives; nay, for aught I know, if a man should pass the month in a college diet, without excess or variety of meats or of drinks, but only the last day give a loose in them both, and so far till it comes to serve him for physic rather than food, and he utter his stomach as well as his heart, he may perhaps, as to the mere considerations of health, do much better than another that eats every day ... in plenty and luxury, with great variety of meats, and a dozen glasses of wine at a meal, still spurring up appetite when it would lie down of itself; flushed every day, but never drunk.[162]

It is refreshing in reading Johnson’s Lives to come upon a poet really free from a suspicion of fondness for drink. Such a one was Edmund Waller, born 1605, died 1687. Would he have lived so long had he been a drink-hard? Johnson remarks of him:—

In the first parliament summoned by Charles the Second (March 8, 1661) Waller sat for Hastings, in Sussex, and served for different places in all the parliaments of that reign. In a time when fancy and gaiety were the most powerful recommendations to regard, it is not likely that Waller was forgotten. He passed his time in the company that was highest both in rank and wit, from which even his obstinate sobriety did not exclude him. Though he drank water, he was enabled by his fertility of mind to heighten the mirth of Bacchanalian assemblies; and Mr. Saville said that ‘no man in England should keep him company without drinking but Ned Waller.’

An excellent companion for the poet would have been Guy, Earl of Warwick, in whose ‘Tragical History’ occur the lines:—

[Pg 231]

Phillis. Give me some bread. I prithee, father, eat.

Guy. Give me brown bread, for that’s a pilgrim’s meat.

Phillis. Reach me some wine; good father, taste of this.

Guy. Give me cold water, that my comfort is.
I tell you, Lady, your great Lord and I
Have thought ourselves as happy as a king,
To drink the water of a christal spring.

Coffee came into general use in England, according to John Evelyn (Diary), about 1667. But he records, under date May 1637, that ‘one Nathaniel Conopios, out of Greece, from Cyrill, the Patriarch of Constantinople, was the first he ever saw drink coffee.’

Tea became a fashionable beverage in England soon after the marriage of Catharine of Braganza with Charles II. It was not exactly introduced by her, as it was procurable in London some months, at any rate, before her marriage; for Pepys writes:—‘Sept. 28, 1660.—I did send for a cup of tea (a China drink), of which I never had drank before.’ Yet she set the fashion for the use of it. Strickland rightly considers that the use of these simple luxuries, tea, coffee, and chocolate, had gradually a beneficial influence on the manners of all classes of society, by forming a counter-charm against habits of intoxication. Waller wrote a complimentary poem on the queen, commending tea, in which are the lines:—

The best of Queens and best of herbs we owe
To that bold nation, who the way did show
To the fair region where the sun doth rise.

All sorts of things have been scribbled about it, good, bad, and indifferent. The same Waller writes:—

The Muses’ friend, Tea, does our fancy aid,
Repress the vapours which the head invade,
An[Pg 232]d keeps the palace of the soul serene.

Young could write, on the other hand:—

Tea; how I tremble at thy fatal stream!
As Lethe, dreadful to the love of fame.
What devastations on thy banks are seen!
What shades of mighty names which once have been!
A hecatomb of characters supplies
Thy painted altars’ daily sacrifice.

In sympathy with Young would be Dr. Parr, in the well-known line of gallantry:—

Nec tea-cum possum vivere, nec sine te.

or, in mother tongue—

When failing tea, my soul and body thrive,
But failing thee, no longer I survive.

The epigram is still more severe:—

If wine be poison, so is Tea—but in another shape—
What matter whether we are kill’d by canister or grape?

We still plump for tea.

One word before leaving the drink of the Restoration. Some may be curious to inquire the nature of their cups. Pepys, telling of his dining at the Lord Mayor’s banquet, says:—

Plenty of wine of all sorts; but it was very unpleasing that we had no napkins nor change of trenchers, and drunk out of earthen pitchers and wooden dishes (cups).

Chaffers remarks that probably pitchers and large pots were usually made of earth and leather, while the cups, or dishes, out of which the liquor was drunk, were of ash; or sometimes, among the more opulent, from cups or tankards of silver:—

His cupboard’s head six earthen pitchers graced,
Beneath them was his trusty tankard placed.
[Pg 233]Dryden’s Juvenal.

It may be here mentioned that Dryden immensely prided himself on his Bacchanalian song entitled Alexander’s Feast. He wrote to his publisher, ‘I am glad to hear from all hands that my ode is esteemed the best of all my poetry.’ Stanza III. is a sufficient specimen:—

The praise of Bacchus then the sweet Musician sung,
Of Bacchus ever fair and ever young:
The jolly god in triumph comes;
Sound the trumpets; beat the drums!
Flush’d with a purple grace
He shows his honest face.
Now give the hautboys breath; he comes, he comes!
Bacchus, ever fair and young,
Drinking joys did first ordain:
Bacchus’ blessings are a treasure,
Drinking is the soldiers’ pleasure:
Rich the treasure,
Sweet the pleasure,
Sweet is pleasure after pain.


The Wine Acts of Car. II. were those known as 12 Charles and 22 & 23 Charles. Early in his reign he issued that remarkable proclamation, which could not but reflect on his favourite companions and strongly mark the moral disorders of those depraved times.[163] It is against ‘vicious, debauch’d, and profane persons,’ who are thus described:—

A sort of men of whom we are sufficiently ashamed, who spend their time in taverns, tippling-houses, and debauches, giving no other evidence of their affection to us but in drinking our health, and inveighing against all others who are not of their ow[Pg 234]n dissolute temper; and who in truth have more discredited our cause by the license of their manners and lives, than they could ever advance it by their affection or courage. We hope all persons of honour, or in place and authority, will so far assist us in discountenancing such men, that their discretion and shame will persuade them to reform what their conscience would not; and that the displeasure of good men towards them may supply what the laws have not, and, it may be, cannot well provide against; there being by the license and corruption of the times, and the depraved nature of man, many enormities, scandals, and impieties, which laws cannot well provide against, which may, by the example and severity of virtuous men, be easily discountenanced and by degrees suppressed.

Blackstone, speaking of the king’s ordinary revenue, observes that a seventh branch might also be computed to have arisen from wine licences, or the rents payable to the Crown by such persons as are licensed to sell wine by retail throughout England, except in a few privileged places. These were first settled on the Crown by the statute 12 Car. II. c. 25, and, together with the hereditary excise, made up the equivalent in value for the loss sustained by the prerogative in the abolition of the military tenures, and the right of pre-emption and purveyance; but this revenue was abolished by 30 Geo. II. c. 19, and an annual sum of upwards of 7,000l. per annum, issuing out of the new stamp duties imposed on wine licences, was settled on the Crown in its stead.[164]

The prices of wines were fixed anew. By 12 Car. II. it was provided that no canary, muskadel, or aligant, or other Spanish or sweet wines, should be sold by retail for over 1s. 6d. the quart; Gascoigne and French wines limited to 8d. the quart, Rhenish wines to 12d.

From the reign of the Norman kings here, to 1660, the wines of Guienne, Poitou, and Gascony came in, subject to mo[Pg 235]derate dues, until the reign of Charles II. The amount of duties by 12 Charles II. c. 4, was 13l. 10s. per tun in London, and 16l. 10s. in the out-ports. This was at the rate of 13¼d. the gallon. The trade with France after the Revolution seems to have been carried on upon an equitable footing until 1675, when one of those popular alarms that often disgrace this country was raised, that France was ruining us, for there was a balance of trade against us of 965,128l. Land happened at the time to have fallen in price. The landed interest was shipwrecked; all, it was averred, in consequence of the money of England going over to France for the purchase of her productions. Cries were uttered like those when the calendar was rectified, ‘Give us back our ten days,’ or the old ‘No Popery,’ ‘the Church in danger,’ or more recently the cry of ‘French invasion,’ echoed from all sides, amid the shouts of the ignorant or interested. England was on the brink of ruin, if they were to be credited. The treaty of commerce concluded was soon hooted down, and in 1678, Parliament, the wisdom of which used sometimes to be very problematical, came to a vote declaring that the ‘trade with France was detrimental to the kingdom!’ An Act of absolute wisdom in the legislative sense of that time followed, the preamble of which ran, ‘Forasmuch as it hath been by long experience found that the importing French wines, brandy, silks, linen, salts, and paper, and other commodities of the growth, product, or manufactures of the territories and dominions of the French king, hath much exhausted the treasure of this nation, lessened the value of the native commodities and manufactures thereof, and caused great detriment to this kingdom, &c.’

It was also averred that, in consequence, rents fell. French wine was therefore prohibited from 1679 to 1685.[165]

We form an idea of the Ingredients put into wines from the order of 12 Car. II. c. 25:—

That no merchant, vintner, wine-cooper or other person, selling or retailing any wine, shall mingle or utter any Spanish wine mingled with any French wine, or Rhenish wine, cyder, perry, stummed wine, honey, sugar, syrups of sugar, molasses, or any other syrups whatsoever: nor put in any isinglass, brimstone, lime, raisins, juice of raisins, water, nor any other liquor nor ingredients, [Pg 236]nor any clary or other herbs, nor any sort of flesh whatsoever.

The excise duties on superior beer was 1s. 3d.; on inferior, 3d.; on a hogshead of cider or perry, 1s. 3d.; on a gallon of mead, ½d.; on a gallon of aqua-vitæ, 1d.; on a gallon of coffee, 4d.; on a gallon of chocolate or tea, 8d. In 1670, brandy had a duty imposed on it of 8d. a gallon when imported.

Upon the accession of

James II.

after the dinner at Guildhall, their Majesties were beset with numerous crowds whose shouts declared their joy. When they reached Ludgate, a rank of loyal gentlemen stood in a balcony, charged with full glasses, which they discharged in such excellent order, that caused all the guards to answer them with a huzza![166]

John Evelyn was ordered by the sheriff to assist in proclaiming the king. He thus describes the event:—

I met the Sheriff and commander of the Kentish Troop, with an appearance, I suppose, of above 500 horse and innumerable people, two of his Majesty’s trumpets, and a Sergeant with other officers, who, having drawn up the horse in a large field neere the towne, march’d thence with swords drawne, to the Market Place, where, making a ring after sound of trumpets and silence made, the High Sheriff read the proclaiming titles to his Bailiffe, who repeated them aloud, and then, after many shouts of the people, his Majesty’s health being drunk in a flint glass of a yard long by the Sheriff, commander, officers, and chief gentlemen, they all dispersed and I returned.

Here is an answer to the question, ‘What is a yard of ale?’ Before the standard measures were in general use, ale was measured out in this ale-yard, which was a [Pg 237]flint-glass a yard long, of sufficient capacity to admit a saccharometer which was a test of its strength and quality.

Many of the old ceremonies observed at the coronation banquets of the early kings were revived by James. Amongst these, the following usage may be noted. After thrice flinging down the gauntlet, the champion made his obeisance to the king, who drank to him from a gilt bowl, which he then returned with the cover. The champion then pledged his Majesty, and rode out of the hall, taking bowl and cover as his fee.

But such ceremonies are not to be taken as any indication of a proneness of the king to high living. Hard drinking he hated. A contemporary writes that:—

The king, going to Mass, told his attendants he had been informed that since his declaring against the disorder of the household, some had the impudence to appear drunk in the queen’s presence ... but he advised them at their peril to observe his order, which he would see obeyed.[167]

Much light has been thrown upon the general habits of the period by Lord Macaulay, who, in describing the English country gentleman of 1688, remarks:—

His chief serious employment was the care of his property. He examined samples of grain, handled pigs, and on market days made bargains over a tankard with drovers and hop merchants. His chief pleasures were commonly derived from field sports, and from an unrefined sensuality.... His table was loaded with coarse plenty, and guests were cordially welcome to it. But as the habit of drinking was general in the class to which he belonged, and as his fortune did not enable him to intoxicate large assemblies daily with claret or canary, strong beer was the ordinary beverage. The quantity of beer consumed in those days was indeed enormous, for beer then was to the middle and lower classes not only all that beer now is, but all that wine, tea, and ardent spirits now are; it was only at great houses, or on great occasions, that foreign drink was [Pg 238]placed on the board. The ladies of the house, whose business it had commonly been to cook the repast, retired as soon as the dishes had been devoured, and left the gentlemen to their ale and tobacco. The coarse jollity of the afternoon was often prolonged till the revellers were laid under the table.

Mr. Lecky observes:—

Among the poor ... the popular beverage was still ale or beer, the use of which—especially before the art of noxious adulteration was brought to its present perfection—has always been more common than the abuse. The consumption appears to have been amazing. It was computed in 1688 that no less than 12,400,000 barrels were brewed in England in a single year, though the entire population probably little exceeded 5,000,000. In 1695, with a somewhat heavier excise, it sank to 11,350,000 barrels, but even then almost a third part of the arable land of the kingdom was devoted to barley.

More bluntly, of course, than Macaulay, did that scourge of iniquity, Jeremy Collier, express himself. Satirising dinner invitations, he writes:—

If the invitation was sent in a letter, and the truth spoken out, it must run in the tenor following: ‘Sir, if you please to do me the favour to dine with me, I shall do my best to drink you out of your limbs and senses, to make you say a hundred silly things, and play the fool to purpose, if ever you did it in your life. And before we part you shall be well prepared to tumble off your horse, to disoblige your coach, and make your family sick at the sight of you. And all this for an opportunity of showing with how much friendship and respect I am your humble servant.’

That the delights of the table were the one thing needful is well illustrated by a cross-examination recorded by Mr. Jeaffreson[168]:—

‘You know Lord Barrymore?’ Dr. Beaufort was asked by the lords of the Privy Council. ‘Intimately, most intimately,’ replied the Doctor. ‘You are continually with him?’ urged the questioner. ‘We dine together almost daily when his lordship [Pg 239]is in town.’ ‘What do you talk about?’ ‘Eating and drinking.’ ‘And what else?’ ‘Oh, my lord, we never talk of anything except eating and drinking, drinking and eating.’

The habit of toasting had much to do with the excesses then so common. At the birth of the male heir to the throne, claret was drunk at the expense of the Crown, and endless glasses broken in drinking the health of their Majesties and the Prince Stuart at the Edinburgh town cross. Even the malcontent city of York drank deep potations.

Rhyming toasts were then in fashion. A Court gossip writes to Lady Rachel Russell:—‘I know not whether you have heard a health that goes about, which is new to me just now, so I send it you:—

The King God bless,
And each princess,
The Church no less,
Which we profess,
As did Queen Bess.’

No doubt great abuses attended this habit of health-drinking, or we should not find Dekker, Thomas Hall, and, indeed, the moralists almost to a man, inveighing against the custom. It was only a few years before this reign that the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Matthew Hale, left the injunction to his grandchildren:—

I will not have you begin or pledge any health, for it is become one of the greatest artifices of drinking and occasions of quarrelling in the kingdom. If you pledge one health you oblige yourself to pledge another, and a third, and so onward, and if you pledge as many as will be drank, you must be debauched and drunk. If they will needs know the reason of your refusal, it is a fair answer—that your grandfather who brought you up, from whom under God you have the estate you enjoy or expect, left this in command with you that you should never begin or pledge a health.

[Pg 240]

What a contrast does Justice Hale present to the merciless Judge Jeffries, whose habitual intemperance may account for his actions. Nor should it be forgotten that Sir Henry Bellasyse, whose widow the king was so anxious to marry, was killed in a duel whilst in a state of intoxication.

A very important reminder is to be found in an Act of 1685, to the effect that—

The ancient true and principal use of ale-houses was for the lodging of wayfaring people, and for the supply of the wants of such as were not able by greater quantities to make their provisions of victuals, and not for entertainment and harbouring of lewd and idle people, to spend their time and money in a lewd and drunken manner.

An event which occurred in this short reign immortalised a roadside inn. The Revolution House, at Whittington, obtained its name from the accidental meeting of the Earl of Danby, the Earl of Devonshire, Lord Delamere, and Mr. John D’Arcy, one morning in 1688, on Whittington Moor, near Chatsworth, to consult about the Revolution, then in agitation. A shower of rain happening to fall, they removed to the village for shelter, and finished their conversation at a public-house called The Cock and Pynot.[169]

A fashionable spirit in this and the following reign was Jamaica Rum. When the Duke of Monmouth was being brought to London as a prisoner, in 1685, he took for a bad cold, at Romsey, while staying on his saddle, a hot glass of rum and eggs. Hot coffee would probably have done him more good. We have already noticed that it came into use in Charles II.’s time. Sir Anthony [Pg 241]Shirley described it as made of a seed which, though nothing toothsome, was wholesome. Pope went further, writing in his Rape of the Lock

Coffee, which makes the politician wise,
And see through all things with his half-shut eyes.

Upon the accession of

William III.

the usual pageant was observed in London. The conduits ran with wine. The same reception greeted the king shortly after at Oxford. The drinking habits of the monarch are well known, though Evelyn speaks of him as naturally averse to drink. After the death of the queen, he became more addicted to his favourite drink, Hollands gin. The banqueting-house at Hampton Court, which was used by him as a drinking and smoking room, has been described as a royal gin-temple. Enemies he had in abundance, and so intense was their hatred, that, in their hours of debauch, they drank to the health of Sorrel, meaning the horse that fell with the king, and, under the appellation of the ‘little gentleman in velvet,’ toasted the mole that raised the hill over which the horse had stumbled.[170] Let us hope that it was the same hostility that accused the queen of fondness for drink. However this may be, it is certain that her physicians warned her most plainly against a strong spirituous cordial to which she resorted in large doses when ill.

From highest to lowest intemperance raged in the reign of William and Mary. De Foe remarks:—

[Pg 242]

If the history of this well-bred vice was to be written, it would plainly appear that it began among the gentry, and from them was handed down to the poorer sort, who still love to be like their betters. After the Restoration, when the king’s health became the distinction between a Cavalier and Roundhead, drunkenness began to reign. The gentry caressed the beastly vice at such a rate that no servant was thought proper unless he could bear a quantity of wine; and to this day, when you speak well of a man, you say he is an honest, drunken fellow—as if his drunkenness was a recommendation to his honesty. Nay, so far has this custom prevailed, that the top of a gentlemanly entertainment has been to make his friend drunk, and the friend is so much reconciled to it that he takes it as the effect of his kindness. The further perfection of this vice among the gentry appears in the way of their expressing their joy for any public blessing. ‘Jack,’ said a gentleman of very high quality, when, after the debate in the House of Lords, King William was voted into the vacant throne, ‘Jack, go home to your lady, and tell her we have got a Protestant king and queen, and go make a bonfire as big as a house, and bid the butler make ye all drunk, ye dog.’[171]

From highest to lowest, we repeat, intemperance raged. Andrew Fletcher, of Saltoun, writing upon the curse and terrorism of mendicancy, complains that many thousands of beggars ‘meet together in the mountains, where they feast and riot for many days; and at country weddings, markets, burials, and the like public occasions, they are to be seen, both men and women, perpetually drunk, cursing, blaspheming, and fighting together.’[172]

The dissoluteness of the time found its expression, not only upon the stage, but among the actors themselves. Terribly significant is the following note by Derrick on a play written by Higden, to whom Dryden wrote a poetical epistle:—

This gentleman (Henry Higden, Esq.) brought a comedy on the [Pg 243]stage in 1693, called The Wary Widow, or Sir Noisy Parrot, which was damned, and he complains hardly of the ill-usage; for the bear-garden critics treated it with cat-calls. It is printed and dedicated to the courtly Earl of Dorset; Sir Charles Sedley wrote the prologue, and it was ushered into the world with several copies of verses. The audience were dismissed at the end of the third act, the author having contrived so much drinking of punch in the play, that the actors all got drunk, and were unable to finish it.[173]

Even the offices of religion enjoyed no immunity. Apart from the annual item of ‘communion wine,’ a by no means uncommon charge upon the parish was ‘wine for the vestry.’ A dignitary of the Church, evidently of the Mapes and Still species, thought it not beneath the dignity of his office to compose the bibulous epigram:—

Si bene commemini, causæ sunt quinque bibendi;
Hospitis adventus; præsens sitis; atque futura;
Et vini bonitas; et quælibet altera causa.[174]

which has been rendered into English:—

If all be true that I do think,
There are five reasons we should drink:
Good wine, a friend, or being dry,
Or lest we should be by-and-by,
Or any other reason why.

Plenty of voices were raised against the current vice. By far the most powerful warning was uttered by the Rev. Dr. William Assheton, Fellow of Brasenose,[175] who opens his discourse thus fearlessly:—

Their Majesties, being sensible that as Righteousness exalteth a nation, so sin is a reproach to any people; and being desirous to reform the lives and manners of all their subjects, have commanded the clergy to Preach frequently against those particular sins and vices which are most prevailing in this realm—viz. against Blasphemy, [Pg 244]Swearing, Cursing, Perjury, Drunkenness, and Prophanation of the Lord’s day.

He reminds that the Act of Parliament calls the sin of drunkenness ‘odious and loathsom.’ He urges:—

The known ends of drink are these: the digestion of our meat, chearfulness and refreshment of our spirits, and the preserving of health. And whilst it contributes to those ends, so far Drinking is regular and moderate; but when it destroys them, ‘tis irregular and sinful. When therefore wine or any other drink is taken in such excess that by overloading nature it hinders digestion, drowns and suffocates the spirits, disorders the faculties, hinders the free use of reason, and thereby makes men unfit for business, and indisposeth them either for civil or religious duties, then its use is irregular and immoderate, and consequently sinful.

He refers to Isaiah v. 11, 22, Prov. xxiii. 29, Luke xxi. 34, Rom. xiii. 13. He dilates on the sad consequence of excess to soul, body, estate, and good name. He asks:—

What sin is so heinous which a man intoxicated may not commit? The reason is plainly this: Erranti terminus nullus. An intemperate man is under no conduct: he is neither under God’s keeping, nor his own. He hath quenched God’s Spirit, whilst he inflamed his own.

And again:—

When fancy is rampant, and sensual inclinations are let loose, you little know what advantage the devil can make of such a juncture.... Wine, if immoderately taken, is very Poyson, which, though it destroys not immediately, yet kills as sure as the rankest dose that was ever presented by Italian hand.

A medical writer, Dr. Richard Carr, inveighed, not only against strong drink, but against tobacco, milk, and nurses![176] And something may even be learnt from the once famous Tom Brown, classed by Thackeray with Thomas D’Urfey and Ned Ward, a writer of libels and [Pg 245]ribaldry, but a man of humour and learning, from whose Laconics many a useful maxim may be culled. The following extract is not unworthy of Joseph Hall:—

If your friend is in want, don’t carry him to the tavern, where you treat yourself as well as him, and entail a thirst and headache upon him next morning. To treat a poor wretch with a bottle of Burgundy, or fill his snuff-box, is like giving a pair of lace ruffles to a man that has never a shirt on his back. Put something into his pocket.

Before estimating the causes of the prevalent declension of morals, it will be necessary to examine the legislation at the close of this seventeenth century, with which it was intimately associated.

Partly through hostility to France, and partly to encourage the home distilleries, the Government of the Revolution, in 1689, prohibited the importation of spirits from all foreign countries, and threw open the distillery trade, on payment of certain duties, to all its subjects. These measures laid the foundation of the great extension of the English manufacture of spirits.[177] Any person was permitted to set up a distillery, on giving ten days’ notice to the excise. The consequence of this was a general thriving of the distillery business, with a corresponding deterioration of the people. Indeed, legislative modification was soon found to be absolutely necessary to counteract the influence of these baneful measures upon health, sobriety, and public order.

We scarcely wonder that the king enthusiastically encouraged the new distilleries, although the measure was a reversal of all previous policy. From the Norman period downwards, the laws of the land had prohibited [Pg 246]the conversion of malt into spirit, except a trifling quantity for medicinal uses. Elizabeth had so strictly enforced this statute as to treat an infringement of it as a moral offence.

A change so disastrous could not escape condemnation. The discursive Whiston, in his autobiographical Memoirs, laments:—

An Act of Parliament has abrogated a very good law for discouraging the poor from drinking gin; nay, they have in reality encouraged men to drunkenness, and to the murder of themselves by such drinking. Judge Hale earnestly supported the restrictive law, and opposed its abrogation, declaring that millions of persons would kill themselves by these fatal liquors.[178]

By the 5th & 6th of William and Mary, the duties were raised in 1694 to 4s. 9d. on strong, and 1s. 3d. on table beer. In 1695, the Commons resolved that a sum not exceeding 515,000l. should be granted for the support of the civil list for the ensuing year, to be raised by a malt tax, and additional duties upon mum, sweets, cyder, and perry. In 1691, owing to the tension with France, further supplies were raised by impositions which included in their number a duty of sixpence a bushel on malt, and a further duty on mum, cyder, and perry.

The price of claret rose rapidly when war with France broke out. Soon the clarets were exhausted. A substitute had to be found, and was discovered in the red wine of Portugal, then imported for the first time.

‘Some claret, boy!’—‘Indeed, sir, we have none.
Claret, sir.—Lord! there’s not a drop in town.
[Pg 247]But we have the best red port.’—‘What’s that you call
Red port?’—‘A wine, sir, comes from Portugal;
I’ll fetch a pint, sir.’

The next quotation throws light upon its composition:—

Mark how it smells. Methinks, a real pain
Is by its odour thrown upon my brain.
I’ve tasted it—‘tis spiritless and flat,
And has as many different tastes
As can be found in compound pastes.[179]

We are now in a position to determine the causes of the prevalent intemperance at the close of the seventeenth century:—

1. The Act to encourage distillation.

2. The exhaustion of light wines.

3. The influence of the Court.

4. The development of toasting.

5. Club life.

It remains only to notice the last two of the causes.

Toasting was carried to an utter absurdity. Chamberlayne thus accounts for the fashion:—

As the English, returning from the wars in the Holy Land, brought home the foul disease of leprosy, ... so, in our fathers’ days, the English, returning from service in the Netherlands, brought with them the foul vice of drunkenness.... This vice at present prevails so much that some persons, and those of quality, may not safely be visited in an afternoon without running the hazard of excessive drinking of healths (whereby, in a short time, twice as much liquor is consumed as by the Dutch, who sip and prate); and in some places it is esteemed a piece of wit to make a man drunk, for which purpose some swilling insipid buffoon is always at hand.[180]

An observant Frenchman, M. Misson, who in 1698 published his observations on England and the English, referred particularly to the custom of toasting—a custom [Pg 248](as he declared) almost abolished amongst French people of any distinction. He noticed that, with ourselves, to have drunk at table without making it the occasion of a toast would have been considered an act of gross discourtesy. The mode of observing the ceremony was that the person whose health was drunk remained perfectly motionless from the moment his name was uttered until the conclusion of the health. Or, as Misson sarcastically describes it:—

If he is in the act of taking something from a dish, he must suddenly stop, return his fork or spoon to its place, and wait, without stirring more than a stone, until the other has drunk ...; after which an inclinabo, at the risk of dipping his periwig in the gravy in his plate. I confess that when a foreigner first sees these manners he thinks them laughable. Nothing appears so droll as to see a man who is in the act of chewing a morsel which he has in his mouth, or doing anything else, who suddenly takes a serious air, when a person of some respectability drinks to his health, looks fixedly at his person, and becomes as motionless as if a universal paralysis had seized him.[181]

It is questionable if Misson was strictly correct in stating that health-drinking had gone out in good French society. Not long before this, Pepys had made this entry in his Diary:—

To the Rhenish wine-house, where Mr. Moore showed me the French manner when a health is drunk to bow to him that drunk to you, and then apply yourself to him whose lady’s health is drunk, and then the person that you drink to—which I never knew before; but it seems it is now the fashion.

On a sort of progress through the country that William III. made in 1695, he was entertained, among other places, at Warwick Castle, by Lord Brook. ‘Guy’s Tower was illuminated. A cistern containing a hundred [Pg 249]and twenty gallons of punch was emptied to his Majesty’s health.’[182]

A good specimen of the convivial songs of the Jacobites at this time is to be found in Sir Walter Scott’s collection. It is entitled:—

Three Healths.

To ane king and no king, ane uncle and father,
To him that’s all these, yet allowed to be neither;
Come, rank round about, and hurrah to our standard;
If you’ll know what I mean, here’s a health to our landlord!

To ane queen and no queen, ane aunt and no mother,
Come, boys, let us cheerfully drink off another;
And now, to be honest, we’ll stick by our faith,
And stand by our landlord as long as we’ve breath.

To ane prince and no prince, ane son and no bastard,
Beshrew them that say it! a lie that is fostered!
God bless them all three; we’ll conclude with this one,
It’s a health to our landlord, his wife, and his son.

To our monarch’s return one more we’ll advance,
We’ve a king that’s in Flanders, another in France;
Then about with the health, let him come, let him come, then,
Send the one into England, and both are at home then.[183]

And, lastly, the Clubs. Such was their influence that Doran even wrote:—‘The Clubs ... were the chief causes that manners were as depraved as they were.’[184] But it must be remembered that they were effect as well as cause. The Calves’ Head Club was probably as bad as any. Out of a calf’s skull filled with wine, the company drank ‘to the pious memory of those worthy patriots who killed the tyrant.’ An anniversary anthem was sung. That for the year 1697 concludes thus:—

[Pg 250]

Advance the emblem of the action,
Fill the calf’s skull full of wine;
Drinking ne’er was counted faction,
Men and gods adore the wine.
To the heroes gone before us,
Let’s renew the flowing bowl;
While the lustre of their glories
Shines like stars from pole to pole.[185]

Another famous club was supposed to obtain its name from the custom of pledging favourites after dinner. Thus, Arbuthnot writes:—

Whence deathless Kit-kat took his name,
Few critics can unriddle;
Some say from pastry-cook it came,
And some from Cat and Fiddle.

From no trim beaus its name it boasts,
Grey statesmen or green wits,
But from this pell-mell pack of toasts
Of old Cats and young Kits.

In the year 1703, which was the second year of

Queen Anne,

the famous Methuen treaty was formed; war between England and France again driving us to Portuguese vintages. And thus was cancelled one of the effects of the Peace of Ryswick, which allowed the reopening of trade with France. It was during this short open-trade period that Farquhar produced his aptly named tragedy, Love and a Bottle. In this comedy we are for the first time introduced to champagne as a vin mousseux, or sparkling wine. In act ii. scene 2, the lodgings of Mockmode, a country squire, are represented; he is conversing with his landlady, Widow Bullfinch:—

[Pg 251]

Mock. But what’s most modish for beverage now? For I suppose the fashion of that always alters with the clothes.

Bullf. The tailors are the best judges of that; but Champaign, I suppose.

Mock. Is Champaign a tailor? Methinks it were a fitter name for a wig-maker. I think they call my wig a campaign.

Bullf. You’re clear out, sir—clear out. Champaign is a fine liquor, which all great beaux drink to make ‘em witty.

Mock. Witty! Oh, by the universe, I must be witty! I’ll drink nothing else; I never was witty in my life. Here, Club, bring us a bottle of what d’ye call it—the witty liquor.

The widow having retired, Club, Mockmode’s servant, re-enters with a bottle and glasses.

Mock. Is that the witty liquor? Come, fill the glasses.... But where’s the wit now, Club? Have you found it?

Club. Egad, master, I think ‘tis a very good jest.

Mock. What?

Club. Why, drinking, you’ll find, master, that this same gentleman in the straw doublet, the same will o’ the wisp, is a wit at the bottom. Here, here, master, how it puns and quibbles in the glass!

Mock. By the universe, now I have it; the wit lies in the jingling. Hear how the glasses rhyme to one another.[186]

Evident allusion is here to the effervescence of champagne.

In his Constant Couple, we have:—

Malice ne’er spoke in generous Champaign.

But champagne, we have said, suffered like other French wines from the War of Succession and the Methuen treaty. By this treaty we were bound to receive Portuguese wines in exchange for our woollen [Pg 252]goods, and to deduct from the duty on importation one-third of the rate levied on French wines. The new demand led to an extension of Portuguese vineyards. The demand continued to increase; the supply was forthcoming, but too often with an article grossly mixed and adulterated. Counterfeits poured into this country, especially from Guernsey, and home manufactures of spurious wine abounded. Mr. Cyrus Redding, an acknowledged authority, in his treatise on French wines, inveighs against what he considers the short-sighted policy of our ministers in this reign. He says:—

We have only done now what wiser heads offered us nearly 150 years ago. M. de Torcy, in vain, proposed an open trade, the advantages of which (now obvious enough to every man of common sense) were scouted by the Government here, and the proposition opposed, not only by the Parliament, but by that suffrage satirically denominated, if not profanely, the vox populi, vox Dei. It was almost an axiom in the last century, in relation to trade, that the success or ruin of our commerce continually inclined for or against us, as the trade of France with England was shut or open. Well and justly did the late Lord Liverpool remark that the trade of England had flourished in spite of our legislation. When France proposed, in 1713-14, that a tariff should be made in England similar to that of France and England in 1664, Lord Bolingbroke treated the proposal with disdain. This tariff was simply that the duties and prohibitions in both countries should be reciprocal. The duty to be paid on both sides was five per cent. After so much of two centuries has elapsed since, we can hardly do otherwise than admit that our ideas of the true principles of trade continued to be erroneous too long, that the offer of de Torcy was a just offer, and that any can still be found obtuse enough to deny this fact shows that there must be exceptions even to the common run of vulgar intellect.

Of the manners of the time we have abundant sources of information. An interesting description is given by Grose of the little country squire of about 300l. a year in Queen Anne’s days:—

He never played at cards but at Christmas, when a family pack wa[Pg 253]s produced from the mantel-piece. His chief drink, the year round, was generally ale, except at this season, the fifth of November, or some other gala days, when he would make a bowl of strong brandy-punch, garnished with a toast and nutmeg.... In the corner of his hall, by the fireside, stood a large wooden two-armed chair with a cushion, and within the chimney corner were a couple of seats. Here at Christmas he entertained his tenants, assembled round a glowing fire.... In the meantime the jorum of ale was in continual circulation.[187]

But Christmas was not what it had been. It struggled, almost in vain, to overcome the check it had sustained during the Commonwealth. Private hospitality and festivities were recovering, but the pageants and masks in the royal household and at the Inns of Court had received a death-blow. At the close of the century, a revel, which would once have been regarded as routine, was thought worthy to be recorded in a diary. Evelyn notes a riotous Christmas at the Inner Temple as late as 1697.

Such a falling off formed a common lament of the poets:—

Gone are those golden days of yore,
When Christmas was a high day;
Whose sports we now shall see no more,
‘Tis turn’d into Good Friday.[188]

To the same effect:—

Black jacks to every man
Were filled with wine and beer;
No pewter pot nor can
In those days did appear.

Good cheer in a nobleman’s house
Was counted a seemly show;
We wanted no brawn nor souse,
[Pg 254]When this old cap was new.[189]

Perhaps the most sensible festivities of this period were certain annual feasts in London for natives of the several counties. The London Gazette, for May 30 to June 3, 1700, advertises ‘the annual feast for gentlemen of the county of Huntingdon.’ Another number announces ‘the anniversary feast for the gentlemen, natives of the county of Kent.’ On such occasions, bygone times would be recounted, mutual friends discussed, and the absent not forgotten in a toast.

Burton ale was celebrated at least as early as 1712. So remarks a writer who had probably found in the Spectator, No. 383, the remark:—‘We concluded our walk with a glass of Burton ale, and a slice of hung beef.’ Had he forgotten that the author of Ivanhoe carries back the fame of Burton ale to a date before the time of Richard I.? And the accuracy of Sir Walter is remarkable, for, in 1295, Matilda, daughter of Nicholas de Shobenhale, ‘released to the Abbot and Convent of Burton-on-Trent that service and custody of their abbey gate, together with the custody and annual rent thereto belonging, and all the tenements within and without the town of Burton which came to her by inheritance from Walter de Scobenhale.... For which release they granted her daily for life two white loaves from the monastery, two gallons of conventual beer, or cider, if they drank it, and one penny; also seven gallons of beer for the men,’ &c. These ales were brewed on the abbey premises, where probably the abbots had their own maltings: as it was a common covenant in leases of mills, where were abbey property, for the malt of the lords of the manor to be ground free.[190]

It is truly sad to contemplate the stream of talent[Pg 255] which was polluted at this time by unrestrained indulgence in strong drink. The infernal compounds which were substituted for the light wines of a previous age played infinite havoc, not only with the Mohocks of aristocracy, but with the giants of intellect. Of the Court itself, Macaulay writes:—

All places where he could have his three courses and his three bottles were alike to Prince George of Denmark, the husband of Queen Anne.[191]

Of Harley, Earl of Oxford, who was successively Speaker of the House of Commons, Secretary of State, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Lord High Treasurer, and who will always be remembered as the collector of the Harleian Manuscripts, the same author, Macaulay, writes, that he was in the habit of ‘flustering himself daily with claret, which was hardly considered as a fault by his contemporaries.’[192]

Among the reasons given by the queen to the cabinet for dismissing her Lord Treasurer, she alleges that he neglected all business, was seldom to be understood; that when he did explain himself, she could not depend upon the truth of what he said; that he never came to her at the time she appointed: that he often came drunk.[193]

Notorious as a drunkard in high places was Lord Mohun, who was twice tried for committing murder whilst in a state of intoxication. The duel between this lord and the Duke of Hamilton—the wives of whom were sisters at variance—is spoken of as probably the last of the kind where the seconds were expected to engage [Pg 256]as well as the principals, and fight to the death.

There is a wide discrepancy between the writings and the reputed actions of Joseph Addison. He was fond of wine, and indulged in it. His contemporary, Swift, acknowledges the weakness. Dr. Johnson does not conceal it. Macaulay laments the fact, Thackeray glories in it.[194] His biographer, Miss Aikin, is almost singular in trying to defend him from the imputation. She refers to the tone and temper, the correctness of taste and judgment, of his writings in proof of his sobriety, and doubts whether a man stained with the vice of intoxication would have dared to write the essay on drunkenness in the Spectator [No. 569]. But the facts leave no room for doubt. He was from his youth a great man for toasts. Verses are extant, in honour of King William, from which we learn that it was his custom to toast that king in bumpers of wine. In a letter written at the age of 31 (1703), ‘to Mr. Wyche, his Majesty’s Resident at Hambourg,’ he says:—

My hand, at present, begins to grow steady enough for a letter, so the properest use I can put it to is to thank ye honest gentleman that set it a-shaking.... As your company made our stay at Hambourg agreeable, your wine has given us all ye satisfaction that we have found in our journey through Westphalia. If drinking your health will do you any good, we may expect to be as long-lived as Methusaleh—or, to use a more familiar instance, as ye hoc in ye cellar.

So much from himself. Dr. Johnson remarks of him:—

[Pg 257]

He studied all morning; then dined at a tavern; and went afterwards to Button’s.

Button had been a servant in the Countess of Warwick’s family, who, under the patronage of Addison, kept a coffee-house on the south side of Russell Street, about two doors from Covent Garden. Here it was that the wits of that time used to assemble. It is said when Addison had suffered any vexation from the countess, he withdrew the company from Button’s house. From the coffee-house he went again to a tavern, where he often sat late, and drank too much wine. In the bottle discontent seeks for comfort, cowardice for courage, and bashfulness for confidence. It is not unlikely that Addison was first seduced to excess by the manumission which he obtained from the servile timidity of his sober hours. He that feels oppression from the presence of those to whom he knows himself superior, will desire to set loose his powers of conversation; and who that ever asked succours from Bacchus was able to preserve himself from being enslaved by his auxiliary?

And yet this was the man who could declare that ‘temperance and abstinence, faith and devotion, are in themselves, perhaps, as laudable as any other virtues.’[195] His essay on Drunkenness, in the Spectator, might well have proceeded from the pen of Hall or Taylor, Decker or Wither. He exclaims:—

A drunken man is a greater monster than any that is to be found among all the creatures which God has made: as indeed there is no character which appears more despicable and deformed, in the eyes of all reasonable persons, than that of a drunkard.... This vice has very fatal effects on the mind, the body, and fortune of the person who is devoted to it. In regard to the mind, it first of all discovers every flaw in it. The sober man, by the strength of reason, may keep under and subdue every vice or folly to which he is most inclined; but wine makes every latent seed sprout up in the soul, and shew itself; it gives fury to the passions, and force to those objects which are apt to produce them. Wine heightens indifference into love, love into jealousy, and jealousy into madness. It often turns the good-natured man into an idiot, and the choleric [Pg 258]into an assassin. It gives bitterness to resentment, it makes vanity insupportable, and displays every little spot of the soul in its utmost deformity.

And more to the same effect. But a passage of his, to be found elsewhere, is far more terribly telling:—

Death, the King of Terrors, was determined to choose a Prime Minister; and his pale courtiers, the ghastly train of diseases, were all summoned to attend, when each preferred his claim to the honour of this illustrious office. Fever urged the numbers he had destroyed; Cold Palsy set forth his pretensions by shaking all his limbs; Gout hobbled up and alleged his great power of racking every joint; and Asthma’s inability to speak was a strong though silent argument in favor of his claim; Stone and Colic pleaded their violence; Plague his rapid progress in destruction; and Consumption, though slow, insisted that he was sure. In the midst of this contention the court was disturbed with the noise of music, dancing, feasting, and revelry: when immediately entered a lady, with a bold lascivious air and flushed countenance. She was attended, on the one hand, by a troop of bacchanals, and on the other by a train of wanton youths and damsels who danced half naked to the softest musical instruments. Her name was Intemperance. She waved her hand, and thus addressed the crowd of diseases:—‘Give way, ye sickly band of pretenders, nor dare to vie with my superior merits in the service of this monarch; am I not your Queen? Do ye not receive your power of shortening human life almost wholly from me? Who then so fit as myself for this important office?’ The grisly monarch grinned a smile of approbation, placed her on his right hand, and she immediately became his principal favourite and Prime Minister.

Addison did another good service in exposing, in the Tatler,—


He says (No. 131):—

[Pg 259]

There is in this city a certain fraternity of chemical operators, who work underground in holes, caverns, and dark retirements, to conceal their mysteries from the eyes and observation of mankind. These subterraneous philosophers are daily employed in the transmutation of liquors, and, by the power of magical drugs and incantations, raising under the streets of London the choicest products of the hills and valleys of France. They can squeeze Bordeaux out of the sloe, and draw Champagne from an apple. Virgil, in that remarkable prophecy,

Incultisque rubens pendebit sentibus uva.
Virg., Ecl. iv. 29.
(The ripening grape shall hang on every thorn),

seems to have hinted at this art, which can turn a plantation of northern hedges into a vineyard. These adepts are known among one another by the name of wine-brewers; and, I am afraid, do great injury, not only to her Majesty’s customs, but to the bodies of many of her good subjects.

But adulteration was no new expedient. In the reign of Edward III., a law was enacted, imposing penalties on adulterations, and directing that an essay of all the wines imported should be made, at least twice a year in every town.

In 1426, Sir John Rainewell, mayor, received information that the Lombard merchants were guilty of malpractices in the adulteration of wines; upon inquiry, he ascertained that the charge was well founded, and ordered that the noxious compound, to the quantity of 150 butts, should be thrown into the kennel.

In the sixteenth century, a similar enactment was passed in the fifth year of Mary. Much dread is expressed of adulteration of good wine, either with inferior wines or water, the penalty on discovery being the loss of their whole stock.

And besyde the samin sic wynes as are sould in commoun tavernis ar commounlie mixt with auld corrupt wines and with watter, to the greit appeir and danger and seikness of the byaris and greit perrell of the saulis of the sellaris.

[Pg 260]

In the seventeenth century Sir William Hawkins writes:—

Since the Spanish sacks have been common in our taverns, which for conservation are mingled with the lime in the making, our nation complains of calentures, stone, dropsy, and infinite other distempers not heard of before this wine came into common use.

Henderson observes that according to the Custom House Books of Oporto, for the year 1812, 135 pipes and 20 hogsheads of wine were shipped for Guernsey. In the same year, there were landed at the London Docks alone 2,545 pipes and 162 hogsheads from that island, reported to be port wine.

The subject of adulteration is much too large to attempt to do any justice thereto; it must suffice to draw attention to one or two specimens. The authorities shall be disinterested.

The following receipt for Port is from a wine guide:—

Take of good cider 4 gallons; of the juice of red beet, 2 quarts; logwood, 4 oz.; rhatany root brewed, ½ a pound; first infuse the logwood and rhatany root in brandy and a gallon of cider for a week; then strain off the liquor, and mix the other ingredients; keep in a cask for a month, when it will be fit to bottle.

In the Mechanics’ Magazine is given the chemical analysis of a bottle of cheap Port:—

Spirits of wine, 3 oz.; cider, 14 oz.; sugar, 1½ oz.; alum, 2 scruples; tartaric acid, 1 scruple; strong decoction of logwood, 4 oz.

Mr. Cyrus Redding, in his work on Modern Wines, lets us into the secrets of cheap Sherry:—It ‘is mingled with Cape wine and cheap brandy, the washings of brandy casks, sugar candy, bitter almonds, &c. The colour, if too great, is taken out by the addition of a small quantity of lamb’s blood; it is then passed off for best sherry.’

[Pg 261]

Professor Mulder, in his Chemistry of Wine, tells that during the process of wine-clearing such aids as albumen, blood, cream, gypsum, marble, nutgalls, lime, salt, gum-arabic, sulphuric acid, &c., are furnished.

The scientific writer Dunovan, in his Domestic Economy, makes us acquainted with a few of the drugs with which beer is doctored.

It is absolutely frightful to contemplate the list of poisons and drugs with which malt liquors have been (as it is technically and descriptively called) doctored. Opium, henbane, cocculus indicus, and Bohemian rosemary, which is said to produce a quick and raving intoxication, supplied the place of alcohol; aloes, quassia, gentian, sweet-scented flag, wormwood, horehound, and bitter oranges, fulfilled the duties of hops; liquorice, treacle, and mucilage of flax seed, stood for attenuated malt sugar. Capsicum, ginger, and cinnamon, or rather cassia-buds, afforded to the exhausted drink the pungency of carbonic acid. Burnt flour, sugar, or treacle, communicated a peculiar taste, which porter-drinkers generally fancy. Preparations of fish, assisted, in cases of obstinacy, with oil of vitriol, procured transparency. Besides these, the brewer had to supply himself with lime, potash, salt, and a variety of other substances, which are of no other use, than in serving the office of more valuable materials, and defrauding the customer.

But the subject is, like the frauds practised, without a limit; references can only be subjoined.[196]

The principal writer in the Tatler, that censor morum, Richard Steele, was a prominent figure in the convivial circle. Wine and extravagance were his bane. He loved drink and was fond of acknowledging it. The author of the Christian Hero wrote his devotional treatise in drink and in debt. The arrival of a hamper of wine could interrupt his moments of tenderest grief. The emotions were forgotten as he sent for his friends, [Pg 262]who join him in drinking ‘two bottles apiece, with great benefit to themselves, and not separating till two o’clock in the morning.’

A story told of him by Dr. Hoadley is characteristic of the man:—

My father, when Bishop of Bangor, was, by invitation, present at one of the Whig meetings, held at the Trumpet in Shoe Lane, when Sir Richard, in his zeal, rather exposed himself, having the double duty of the day upon him, as well to celebrate the immortal memory of King William, it being the 4th November, as to drink his friend Addison up to conversation pitch, whose phlegmatic constitution was hardly warmed for society by that time. Steele was not fit for it. Two remarkable circumstances happened. John Sly, the hatter of facetious memory, was in the house; and John, pretty mellow, took it into his head to come into the company on his knees, with a tankard of ale in his hand to drink off to the immortal memory, and to return in the same manner. Steele, sitting next my father, whispered him—Do laugh. It is humanity to laugh. Sir Richard, in the evening, being too much in the same condition, was put into a chair, and sent home. Nothing would serve him but being carried to the Bishop of Bangor’s, late as it was. However, the chairmen carried him home, and got him upstairs, when his great complaisance would wait on them downstairs, which he did, and then was got quietly to bed.

One of his own letters to Mrs. Scurlock reveals the man:—

I have been in very good company, where your health, under the character of the woman I loved best, has been often drunk; so that I may say that I am dead drunk for your sake, which is more th[Pg 263]an I die for you.

Matthew Prior, the poet, demands a notice. Whether he was the son of a vintner or a joiner is a moot point. He was certainly nephew to Samuel Prior, landlord of the Rummer Tavern at Charing Cross, at which house, in 1685, was held the annual feast of the nobility and gentry living in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. By this uncle he was brought up and sent to Westminster School, after which he was employed, it is said, at his uncle’s as server. Taken up by Lord Dorset, his career was remarkable, as author, as secretary to successive embassies, as member of Parliament, as favourite of the king. Dr. Johnson remarks that a survey of Prior’s life and writings may exemplify a sentence which he doubtless understood well when he read Horace at his uncle’s:—

The vessel long retains the scent which it first receives.

Mrs. Barbauld informs us, that having spent the evening with Oxford, Bolingbroke, Pope, and Swift, he would go to Long Acre and there drink a bottle of ale with a common soldier and his wife. Thus does the dog return to his vomit. Swift has left us a lively picture of manners in his descriptive breakfast with my Lady Smart at 11 a.m. Lord Smart, who was absent at the levee, returns to dinner at 3 p.m. to receive the guests. Seven of them dined, and were joined by a country baronet, who had no appetite, having already eaten a beefsteak and drunk two mugs of ale, besides a tankard of March beer when he got up in the morning. They drank claret, which the host said should always be drunk after fish, and my Lord Smart particularly recommended some cider to my Lord Sparkish. When the host called for wine, he nodded to one or other of his guests, and said, ‘Tom Neverout, my service to you.’ After the first course came pudding. Wine and small beer were drunk during this second course.... After the puddings came the third course.... Beer and wine were freely[Pg 264] imbibed during this course, the gentlemen always pledging somebody with every glass which they drank.... After the goose, some of the gentlemen took a dram of brandy. Dinner ended, Lord Smart bade the butler bring up the great tankard full of October to Sir John. The great tankard was passed from hand to hand and mouth to mouth; but when pressed by the noble host upon the gallant Tom Neverout, he said, ‘No faith, my lord, I like your wine, and won’t put a churl upon a gentleman. Your honour’s claret is good enough for me.’ The cloth removed, a bottle of Burgundy was set down, of which the ladies were invited to partake before they went to tea. When they left, fresh bottles were brought, the ‘dead men’—meaning the empty bottles—removed, and ‘D’you hear, John? bring clean glasses,’ my Lord Smart said. On which the Colonel said, ‘I’ll keep my glass; for wine is the best liquor to wash glasses in.’

It was at this time that the works were published of one who was at once the creature and exponent of the times, Edward (better known as Ned) Ward. Campbell observes that ‘his works give a complete picture of the mind of a vulgar but acute cockney. His sentiment is the pleasure of eating and drinking.’[197] Ward possessed two qualifications for his depiction of manners; he was a tavern-keeper, and a poet. At any rate his doggerel secured him notice in the Dunciad. His Secret History of Clubs is the authority for that kind of life at the beginning of the eighteenth century. His London Spy describes the coffee-houses of the day:—‘In we went (says he), where a parcel of muddling muckworms were as busy as so many rats in an old cheese-loft; some going; some coming; some scribbling, some talking,[Pg 265] some drinking, some smoking, others jangling; and the whole room stinking of tobacco, like a Dutch scoot or a boatswain’s cabin.’

Some of the famous taverns are also described in this work, such as the ‘Angel’ in Fenchurch Street, ‘where the vintner, like a double-dealing citizen, condescended as well to draw carman’s comfort, as the consolatory juice of the vine.’ The ‘Rose,’ in the Poultry, has gained a reputation:—‘There in a snug room, warmed with brash and faggot, over a quart of good claret, we laughed over our night’s adventure.’

Convivial life at the Universities may find its illustration in the person of Bentley.

The following is told about Lord Cartaret and Bentley, in Monk’s Life of Bentley, vol. ii. p. 324 (2nd edit. 1833).

Lord Cartaret was a great scholar, and, being an old Westminster boy, especially fond of Terence, which Dr. Bentley had edited. Kippis relates this anecdote, in the Biographia Britannica, vol. ii. p. 280:—

Dr. Bentley, when he came to town, was accustomed, in his visits to Lord Cartaret, sometimes to spend the evenings with his lordship. One day old Lady Granville reproached her son with keeping the country clergyman, who was with him the night before, till he was intoxicated. Lord Cartaret denied the charge; upon which the lady replied that the clergyman could not have sung in so ridiculous a manner unless he had been in liquor. The truth of the case was, that the singing thus mistaken by her ladyship was Dr. Bentley’s endeavour to instruct and entertain his noble friend by reciting Terence according to the true cantilena of the ancients.

Kippis, however, ought not to have called Lord Cartaret’s mother Lady Granville, as her son was the first Lord Granville, to which title he was not yet appointed. She was the Dowager Lady Cartaret.

[Pg 266]

Bentley himself ‘is stated to have been an admirer of good port wine, while he thought contemptuously of claret, which, he said, “would be port if it could.”’[198]

We infer also that Bentley did not despise ale. At any rate a great quantity was drunk at the lodge of the Master.

In 1710, when the Fellows appealed against Bentley to the Visitor of Trinity, the Bishop of Ely, this was one of the counts:—

Why have you for many years last past wasted the College Bread, Ale, Beer, Coals, Wood, Turfe, Sedge, Charcoal, Linnen, Pewter, Corn, Flower (sic), Brawn, and Bran, &c.?[199]

In a single year—1708—the expense of ale and small beer was no less at Trinity Lodge than 107l. 16s.[200]

The Fellows greatly protested against all this. And Dr. King, an old opponent of Bentley’s, made great stock of the immense consumption of bread, beer, and fuel in Bentley’s lodge:—

He wrote a piece of humour, entitled ‘Horace in Trinity College.’ The fiction supposes Horace, in fulfilment of his well-known prophecy, Visam Britannos hospitibus feros, to visit Britain and take up his abode in the Master’s lodge of Trinity College, where he gets immensely fat (Epicuri de grege porcus) by the good cheer maintained at the expense of the society.... Perhaps the most laughable matter in the piece is the representation of a medal, bearing on one side a figure of Horace, with a cup of audit ale in one hand, some college rolls in the other, and an immeasurable rotundity of person; and on the reverse E Promptuar. Col. Trin. Cant.

What the excellent bishop describes as ‘an immeasurable rotundity of person’ seems to have been far from uncommon in the Universities in these high days. We [Pg 267]read in a note in Monk’s book, vol. ii. p. 394:—

The portly appearance of the three esquire-beadles at that day [about 1739] did much credit to university cheer. They are described by Christopher Smart, in a copy of Latin verses, by the following periphrasis:—

‘Pinguia tergeminorum abdomina Bedellorum.’

We have certainly in Pope’s Dunciad also an allusion to Bentley’s love of port (book iv.) in the following lines:—

As many quit the streams[201] that murmuring fall,
To lull the sons of Margaret and Clare-hall,
Where Bentley late tempestuous wont to sport
In troubled waters, but now sleeps in port.[202]

Pope always seemed to have disliked Bentley. But these lines, and, still more, Pope’s note, rather imply that Bentley liked his port.

But everybody was not a bon-vivant. Many were in the world, but not of it. What a contrast to the authors quoted was John Philips, the author of Cyder, a Poem.[203] And it is a poem worth reading. Johnson calls it a Georgic after the manner of Virgil, nor does it suffer from the comparison. The advice contained in it is excellent. It praises use, it condemns abuse. It well serves temperance. Thus in book ii., after praising Nature for her annual gifts, which tend to the exhilaration of languid minds, he continues:—

The golden Mean confined: beyond, there’s naught
[Pg 268]Of health, or pleasure. Therefore, when thy Heart
Dilates with fervent joys, and eager soul
Prompts to persue the sparkling glass, be sure
‘Tis time to shun it; if thou wilt prolong
Dire compotation, forthwith Reason quits
Her Empire to Confusion, and Misrule,
And vain Debates; then twenty Tongues at once
Conspire in senseless Jargon, naught is heard
But din, and various clamour, and mad Rant:
Distrust, and Jealousie to these succeed,
And anger-kindling Taunt, the certain Bane
Of well-knit Fellowship. Now horrid Frays
Commence, the brimming glasses now are hurled
With dire intent; Bottles with Bottles clash
In rude Encounter.
    *    *    *    *
Nor need we tell what anxious cares attend
The turbulent Mirth of Wine; nor all the kinds
Of Maladies, that lead to Death’s grim cave,
Wrought by Intemperance: joint-racking Gout,
Intestine stone, and pining Atrophy,
Chill, even when the sun with July Heats
Frys the scorch’d soil; and Dropsy all afloat,
Yet craving Liquids.

When a poet could thus write, there is no wonder that divines should have used still stronger language. John Disney, in a powerful treatise,[204] agitates for the execution of the laws against immorality. His remarks on the Sunday closing of public-houses are especially applicable now:—

If they must have refreshment, why cannot they have it at their own houses? In truth refreshment is but a pretence for excess and drunkenness. If company meets together in a public-house on Sunday evening, when there is no danger of other business that shall call them away, who shall tell them the critical min[Pg 269]ute when they are sufficiently refreshed? Except the constable beat up their quarters, they sit very contentedly hour after hour, and call for pint after pint, and make themselves judges of their refreshment till they’re able to judge of nothing at all. If you still ask what harm there is in going to a public-house for only an hour or two, and to stay no longer, I might tell you that ‘tis enough that the Laws have forbidden it, and that her Majesty has reinforced those laws.

Bishop Beveridge, who died in Anne’s reign, wrote an important sermon on ‘The Duty of Temperance and Sobriety.’[205] He says:—

There is no sin but some have committed it in their drink; and if there be any that a drunken man doth not commit, it is not because he would not, but because he could not. He had not an opportunity.... For a man in such a condition hath no sense of the difference between good and evil; for ‘wind,’ as the prophet speaks (Hos. iv. 11), ‘hath taken away his heart.’ His reason, his understanding, his conscience, is gone; and therefore, all sins are alike to him. Hence it is that their sin never goes alone, but hath a great train of other sins always following it; insomuch that it cannot so properly be called one single sin, as all sin is one.

The legislation of the reign was not important. The 1st Anne permitted tradesmen whose principal dealings were in other goods to sell spirits by retail, without a licence, provided they did not allow tippling in their shops or houses.

Another law enacted in this reign allowed French wines and other liquors to be imported in neutral bottoms. Without this expedient it was believed that the revenue would have been insufficient to maintain the government.


[112] ‘Discovery of a London monster, called the Black Dog of Newgate.’

[Pg 270]

[113] J. R. Sheen, Wines. Cyrus Redding, Modern Wines.

[114] Beaumont and Fletcher, The Chances. V.

[115] History of Signboards.[Pg 271]

[116] History of the English People.

[117] Strickland: Lives of Queens.

[118] Burton observes (Anatomy of Melancholy, i. 2): ‘Drunken women most part bring forth children like unto themselves.’

[119] The author of the History of Signboards is wrong in saying (p. 52) that James married a daughter of Christian IV. James married a daughter of Frederic II. and a sister of Christian IV. Frederick was dead before the marriage of James.

[120] Sir John Harrington, Nugæ Antiquæ, i. 348. It is cited, more or less, in Lingard, Hist. Eng.; Nichols’ Progresses; Aubrey, Hist. Eng.; Samuelson, Hist. Drink; Sandys’ Chrismastide, &c.

[121] Charles Lamb’s Works, On the Poetical Works of George Wither.

[122] Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Poets.

[123] Cited in Sir H. Ellis’s Brand, Pop. Antiq., and in Nares’ Glossary.

[124] George Herbert: Country Parson.

[125] Virgidemiarum, ii. 3.

[126] Nabal and Abigail.

[127] Blackstone: Comm. on the Laws of England, iv. 4.

[128] Court of Hastings Book for Lyme.

[129] Philocothonista, or the Drunkard opened, 1635.

[130] For a picture of social degradation in this direction, see Middleton’s A Chast Mayd in Cheape-side, 1630 (or T. Middleton’s Works, iv. 44, &c.).

[131] Heywood and Rowley, Fortune by Sea and Land.

[132] Gervase Markham, English Housewife, 1683.

[133] Pasquil, Palinodia, 1619.

[134] Familiar Letters, II. 60.

[135] Heywood, Rape of Lucrece.

[136] Healthes; Sicknesse, 1628.

[137] Gent’s Mag. for 1791.

[138] Lives of the English Poets.

[139] The Royalist, 1646.

[140] English Villanies, 1632.

[141] Howell, State Trials, vol. iii.

[142] Sermon on Christian Prudence.

[143] Funeral Sermon for the Countess of Carbery.

[144] James Usher, Body of Divinity, 1677.

[145] Harleian Miscellany, vol. x. Bridgett, who cites the passage, says the letter was sketched by a French Protestant. The internal evidence of the last sentence renders it certain that John Evelyn was not the author; to whom, according to Sir H. Ellis, it has been attributed.

[146] Antiq. Repertory, ii.

[147] The Drunkard’s Prospective (1656).

[148] Cited by Timbs, Club Life, and Doran, Table Traits.

[149] Rape of the Lock.

[150] 7th Edition, p. 502.

[151] Ib. p. 259.

[152] A picture of it is given in Knight, Old England, and Brand, Hist. of Newcastle.

[153] Works Collected, 1654.


‘Even from my heart much health, I wish,
No health I’ll wash with drink,
Healths wish’d not wash’d, in words, not wine,
To be the best I think.’—Witt’s Recreations, 1669.

[155] ‘I have discovered a treasure of pale wine.... I assure you ‘tis the same the King drinks of.’—Otway, Friendship in Fashion, 1678.

[156] French Wines and Vineyards, 1860.

[157] Butler, Hudibras, iii. 3.

[158] Sir George Etheridge, Man of the Mode, 1676.

[159] Magnæ Britanniæ Notitia, 1710.

[160] Roberts: Social Hist. Southern Counties.

[161] Hume.

[162] Works of Sir W. Temple (On the Cure of the Gout), vol. iii.

[163] I. Disraeli: Curiosities of Literature.

[164] Blackstone: Comment. on the Laws of Eng. 1791.

[165] Cyrus Redding: French Wines.

[166] London Pageants. Cf. also Sandford’s History of the Coronation of James II. and his Queen at Westminster.

[167] Letters of the Herbert Family.

[168] A Book about the Table, 1875.

[169] A view of the house is given in Pegge’s Curialia Miscellanea, London, 1818. Cf. also Gent. Mag., Suppl. to vol. lxxx. part ii.

[170] Smollett, Hist. of Eng.

[171] Poor Man’s Plea, 1698.

[172] Second Discourse on the Affairs of Scotland, 1698.

[173] Giles Jacob: Poetical Register, 1723.

[174] Dr. Henry Aldrich (Dean of Christ Church), 1700.

[175] A Discourse against Drunkenness, Lond. 1692.

[176] Epistolæ Medicinales, Lond. 1691.

[177] Lecky: England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. i.

[178] Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. William Whiston, Lond. 1749.

[179] Farewell to Wine, 1693.

[180] Mémoires d’Angleterre, 1698. A translation by Ozell was published, London, 1719.

[181] Hist. of Eng., chap. xxi.

[182] Hist. of Eng., chap. xxi.

[183] The expressions Uncle, Aunt, refer to the relationship between the exiled king and queen, and William III.

[184] Table Traits, 1854.

[185] Cited in Timbs, History of Clubs.

[186] See Vizetelly, History of Champagne.

[187] Worn-out Characters of the Last Age.

[188] Marchamont Nedham: Short History of the English Rebellion, 1691.

[189] Time’s Alteration, cited in Sandy’s Christmas-Tide.

[190] Cf. Molineux, Burton-on-Trent.

[191] Hist. of Eng., chap. xviii.

[192] Ibid. chap. xx.

[193] See the letter of Erasmus Lewis to Swift, dated Whitehall, July 27, 1714.

[194] English Humourists, 1858.

[195] Spectator, No. 243.

[196] Cf. Wine and Spirit Adulterations Unmasked. The chapter on ‘Sophistication of Wines’ in Redding’s Modern Wines. The Vintner’s and Licensed Victualler’s Guide, by a Practical Man. Art of Brewing (Library of Useful Knowledge). Alex. Morrice, Practical Treatise on Brewing. Samuel Child, Every Man his own Brewer. Edward Lonsdale Bennet, Practical Notes on Wine. Professor G. Mulder, Chemistry of Wine. Others may be found by reference to the chapter, ‘Bibliography.’

[197] Essay on English Poetry.

[198] Monk’s Life, vol. ii. p. 401.

[199] Jebb’s Bentley, p. 105.

[200] Monk, Life of Bentley, i. 264.

[201] The river Cam.

[202] Viz. ‘now retired into harbour, after the tempests that had long agitated his society.’ So Scriblerus. But the learned Scipio Maffei understands it of a certain wine called Port from Oporto, a city of Portugal, of which this professor invited him to drink abundantly. Scip. Maff. de compotationibus Academicis.

[203] London, 1708.

[204] View of Ancient Laws against Immorality and Prophaneness. 1729.

[205] CXXXV.



A change of dynasty brought with it no amelioration of manners. The fatal permission to set up distilleries, which was granted after the Revolution of 1688, and which was not withdrawn by William, was encouraged by the Legislature in the reign of the first George. The consequence was natural: distilleries multiplied, and drink was sold so cheap that unrestrained indulgence prevailed. The condition of things has been ably recorded by Mr. Lecky.[206] It was not till about 1724 that the passion for gin-drinking infected the masses of the population, and spread with the violence of an epidemic.

Small as is the place which this fact occupies in English history, it was probably, if we consider all the consequences that have flowed from it, the most momentous in that of the eighteenth century—incomparably more so than any event in the purely political or military annals of the country. The average of British spirits distilled, which is said to have been only 527,000 gallons in 1684, had risen in 1727 to 3,601,000. Physicians declared that in excessive gin-drinking a new and terrible source of mortality had been opened for the poor. The grand jury of Middlesex declared that much the greater part of the poverty, the murders, the robberies of London, might be traced to this single cause. Retailers of gin were accustomed to hang out painted boards announcing that their customers could be made drunk for a penny, dead drunk for twopence, and have straw for nothing; and cellars strewn with straw were accordingly provided, into which those who had become insensible were dragged, and where they remained till they had sufficiently recovered to renew their orgies.

What preventive measures had soon to be taken, we shall learn later on. But the home distilleries were not the only bane. In consequence of the heavy duty to which foreign spirits were subjected, the smuggling trade [Pg 272]began to be brisk. Rum, brandy, and hollands were brought over from the Channel Islands in small barrels, and were either landed at once or sunk in rafts to be taken up when convenient. The smuggling trade threw into the country immense quantities of spirits. Indeed ale and beer were almost superseded by spirits and water, or ‘grog,’ as it then began to be called.

The origin of the term ‘grog’ may interest, and is as follows:—The British sailors had always been accustomed to drink their allowance of brandy or rum clear, till Admiral Vernon ordered those under his command to mix it with water. The innovation gave offence to the sailors, and for a time rendered the commander unpopular. The admiral at that time wore a grogram coat, for which reason they nicknamed him ‘Old Grog’—hence by degrees the mixed liquor that he ordered obtained universally the name of ‘grog.’

The brewing of porter began about the year 1722. It is a drink which chiefly differs from beer by being made with higher dried malt. It was then the common practice in taverns to call for a pot of half-and-half, meaning half ale and half twopenny, or sometimes an equal portion of ale, beer, and twopenny, which was called three threads. To avoid the trouble of drawing these liquors from their respective casks, a person named Harwood formed the plan of brewing a drink that would at once yield the flavour of these combined ingredients. He effected his object, calling the beverage ‘entire,’ or entire butt, because it was taken from one butt or vessel. And inasmuch as it was purchased by porters and such like persons, it became ever afterwards distinguished by the name of porter.

The drink called saloop came into vogue at this time. Reide’s coffee-house, in Fleet Street, was one of t[Pg 273]he first houses in which it was sold. Called also salep, and salop; it was a greasy-looking beverage, sold much on stalls in the early morning. It was prepared from a powder made of the root of the Orchis mascula, and from the green-winged meadow orchis. Salep was long imported from the Levant, till it was discovered that our native plants could supply it, specially the early purple orchis. It used, like porter, to be a favourite drink of porters, coal-heavers, &c. It is said to contain more nutritious matter in proportion to its bulk than any other known root: an ounce of salep was thought to be support for a man for a day. It is still much used in the East. In Hindoostanee it is called salab-ee-misree, in Persian sahleb. In the present century it has been superseded by coffee-barrows; but Charles Lamb has left some account of this drinkable, which he says was of all preparations the most grateful to the stomachs of young chimney-sweeps.[207]

Ales commonly became known by the name of the district that produced them—e.g. Dorset beer, Oxford ale. Thus, John Byrom writes:—

May 18, 1725.—I found the effect of last night’s drinking that foolish Dorset, which was pleasant enough, but did not at all agree with me, for it made me very stupid all day.[208]

Oxford Ale was the subject of a panegyric written by Warton in 1720—and a panegyric from such a man would be, in the opinion of many, a boon of immortality.

The drinking at this time has already been spoken of as an epidemic. Wine was necessary on all occasions. [Pg 274]The marriage ceremony was incomplete without it, as is abundantly evident from contemporary verse. More than one ridiculed the notion so prevalent, that

Wine must seal the marriage-bands.

But the Church had long since sanctioned a belief in its spell. The Sarum Missal had taught that the bridal cup must be blessed by the priest:—

Post missam, panis et vinum, vel aliud bonum potabile, in vasculo proferatur.

And so the hallowing of wine and sops was usual from the court to the cottage.

Burials were imperfect without the cup. M. Misson, in his Observations, notes:—

Butler, the keeper of the Crown and Sceptre Tavern in St. Martin’s Lane, told me that there was a tun of red port drunk at his wife’s burial, besides mulled white wine.—No men ever go to women’s burials, nor women to men’s, so that there were none but women at the drinking of Butler’s wine. Such women in England will hold it out with the men, when they have a bottle before them, as well as upon the other occasion, and battle infinitely better than they.

The number of public-houses was excessive. In 1725 a report from a committee of Middlesex magistrates stated that at that period there were in the metropolis, exclusive of the City of London and Southwark, 6,187 houses and shops wherein ‘geneva, or other strong waters,’ were sold by retail. The population was then about 700,000. In some cases every seventh house was employed in the sale of intoxicants.

We get a life-like picture of the times from Daniel Defoe; and if it be objected that his writing is fiction, we reply with Thackeray that the fiction carries a greater amount of truth in solution than the volume which purports to be all true. On the subject of dri[Pg 275]nk amongst women, and drink as a medicine, what can be more touching than the following from his Life of Colonel Jack?—

The hero, Colonel Jack, is giving an account of his third wife:—

I was infinitely satisfied with my wife, who was, indeed, the best-humoured woman in the world, and a most accomplished beautiful creature—indeed, perfectly well bred, and had not one ill quality about her; and this happiness continued without the least interruption for about six years. But I at last had a disappointment of the worst sort even here. She caught cold, and grew very sickly. In being so continually ill and out of order, she very unhappily got a habit of drinking cordials and hot liquors.

Drink, like the devil, when it gets hold of any one, though but a little, goes on by little and little to their destruction; so in my wife, her stomach being weak and faint, she first took this cordial, then that—till, in short, she could not live without them; and from a drop to a sup, from a sup to a dram, from a dram to a glass, and so on to two, till at last she took, in short, to what we call drinking.

As I likened drink to the devil in its gradual possession of the habits and person, so it is yet more like the devil in its encroachment on us, where it gets hold of our senses. In short, my beautiful, good-humoured, modest, well-bred wife, grew a beast, a slave to strong liquor, and would be drunk at her own table, nay, in her own closet by herself, till she lost her beauty, her shape, her manners, and at last her virtue.

Oh! the power of intemperance! And how it encroaches on the best disposition in the world; how it comes upon us gradually and insensibly, and what dismal effects it works upon our morals, changing the most virtuous, regular, well-instructed, and well-inclined tempers into worse than brutal! Never was a woman more virtuous, sober, modest, and chaste, than my wife. She never so much as desired to drink anything strong. It was with the greatest entreaty that I could prevail with her to drink a glass or two of wine, and rarely, if ever, above one or two at a time; even in company she had no inclination to it. Not an immodest word ever came out of her mouth, nor would she suffer it in [Pg 276]any one else in her hearing without resentment.

But during her illness and weakness, her nurse pressed her, whenever she found herself faint, and a sinking of her spirits, to take this cordial, and that dram, till it became necessary to keep her alive, and gradually increased to a habit, so that it was no longer her physic but her food. Her appetite sunk and went quite away, and she ate little or nothing, but she came at last to a dreadful height, that, as I have said, she would be drunk in her dressing-room before eleven o’clock in the morning, and, in short, at last was never sober.

Let any one judge of my case now; I, that for six years thought myself the happiest man alive, was now the most miserable distracted creature. As to my wife, I loved her well and pitied her heartily. I almost locked her up, and set people over her to take care of her; but her health was ruined, and in about a year and a half she died.

Rightly did the poet Gay in his Court of Death make Death give the palm to intemperance amongst the claimant diseases:—

Merit was ever modest known.
What, no physician speak his right!
None here! but fees their toil requite.
Let then Intemperance take the wand,
Who fills with gold their zealous hand:
You, Fever, Gout, and all the rest—
Whom wary men as foes detest—
Forego your claims. No more pretend;
Intemperance is esteemed a friend;
He shares their mirth, their social joys,
And as a courted guest destroys.
The charge on him must justly fall,
Who finds employment for you all.

Amongst the many who shortened their days through excess, must be mentioned the name of Thomas Parnell. Dr. Johnson, in his Lives of the Poets, observes:—

[Pg 277]

Pope represents him as falling into intemperance of wine after Queen Anne’s death, in consequence of disappointed ambition. That in his later life he was too much of a lover of the bottle is not denied; but I have heard it imputed to a cause more likely to obtain forgiveness from mankind, the untimely death of a darling son; or, as others tell, the loss of his wife, who died 1712.

The latter is probably the true solution. He had married a woman of great beauty, Miss Anne Minchin, who died soon after that event, and grief probably preyed upon his fitful spirits, and led him into intemperance. He died before he was forty. Well for him had he imitated the character drawn in his exquisite poem The Hermit:—

The great vain man who fared on costly food,
Whose life was too luxurious to be good;
Who made his ivory stands with goblets shine,
And forced his guests to morning draughts of wine;
Has, with the cup, the graceless custom lost,
And still he welcomes, but with less of cost.

The most advanced exponent of the conviviality of the time was William Congreve, at one time commissioner of wine licences. His comedies are steeped in vice. Congreve’s comic feast (says Thackeray) flares with lights, and round the table, emptying their flaming bowls of drink, and exchanging the wildest jests and ribaldry, sit men and women, waited on by rascally valets and attendants—perhaps the very worst company in the world. To him (says the same author) the world seemed to have no moral at all. His ghastly doctrine seemed to be that we should eat, drink, and be merry when we can, and go to the deuce (if there be one) when the time comes!

The experience of the self-made Franklin is very suggestive as to the drinking habits of working men in London 160 years ago. For from the habits of printers one may infer the habits of other craftsmen.

[Pg 278]

When the famous Dr. Franklin was a printer’s boy in England—he came to England in 1724 or 1725—he found all his companions in the printing office drank five pints of porter daily at their work, and one of them even six. He was himself a water-drinker, but could not get any of them to see his argument ‘that bread contained more materials of strength than beer, and that it was only corn in the beer that produced the strength in the liquid.’

Now, as it is quite clear that, if these printing ‘prentices drank five pints of porter at their work, they would have extra drink out of work hours, we have in this anecdote an appalling picture of the drinking in England 160 years ago. What working man now averages five pints per diem?[209]

A useful little work was published in 1725, entitled The Publick-House-keeper’s Monitor. The author prefaces, that the reigning vices of the age make it a duty to consider and use any practicable methods to put a stop to ‘that deluge of Impiety which overflows almost this whole nation.’ He complains that there are too many of these houses which enjoy ‘a legal allowance,’ that many ought to be suppressed, but that it is persistently urged

that they are beneficial to the Publick; that they raise the Revenues of the Crown, and must therefore be supported in Complaisance to the Government. So far have Political Motives in this, as well as many other cases, got the better of religious ones; the Almighty must be serv’d last, if at all: And too many of the Substitutes of an Earthly Power, are apt to forget whose Vicegerent he is, and consequently from whom originally they derive their[Pg 279] Authority, which would discover to them to whom they principally owe their Duty.

For indeed the same Argument, which prevails for the allowing of so many publick Houses, must, and, I fear, too often does prevail for the Neglect of a careful Inspection into the Management of them, and for a Connivance at the many Irregularities committed in them; ‘twould be a Means of sinking the Publick Revenues, if they were strictly confin’d to the Observance of those Laws, which were made for good Purposes. And what does all this amount to, but that Cæsar must have his Due, with a non obstante that the Almighty is defrauded?

He then proceeds to discuss the legitimate uses of taverns:—

The First Use of Publick-Houses is, to refresh hungry or weary Travellers; to receive those, whose Time or Strength permits them not to go farther, and to furnish them with such Lodging and Provision, that being recruited, they may be the better able to proceed in their Journey.

But such houses are too numerous:

Instead of their being too few, there are upon most Roads abundantly too many Houses of Reception; so many, that they not only destroy one another’s lawful and honest Maintenance, but lie like so many Snares in the way of Travellers. There are but few Parts of this Kingdom, if any, where Market-Towns are not near enough together, to serve all the Ends and Purposes of Publick Houses; and I may say, there are but few, if any, Market-Towns, which are not greatly over-stock’d with them. However, as to the Usefulness of them in general, let it suffice to observe, that where they stand conveniently situated, and are wisely and honestly manag’d, they are undoubtedly a very great Advantage to a Nation.

Another use, he tells us, is to receive and provide for those who live in the same place and who are not housekeepers themselves, but who, being sojourners, journeymen, or servants, find it a great conveniency to repair to such houses for their meals.

[Pg 280]

Then again they are useful (he urges) to receive persons who meet together

upon making Contracts or Bargains in the Way of Commerce; and whether this be done at common and ordinary Times, or at the more publick and stated Seasons of Fairs and Markets; or lastly, whether the publick Business of the Nation, or the more private Affairs of Lordships, Parishes, &c., do require the Meeting together of many Persons; so that the most convenient Places for these are generally esteemed such Houses as I am treating of. However, this may be affirm’d of them all in general, that the Design of them is to be useful; and that their Usefulness consists in their being duly and regularly kept, according to the several Laws of the Nation, provided for that purpose, and founded upon the necessities and Conveniences of the People.

He proceeds to lay down stated rules to be observed by such persons as keep taverns. He urges upon them first of all, personal sobriety, a strict regard to chastity, a scrupulous regard to honesty, that every one have goods, in quantity and quality, according to the value of their money. He exposes fearlessly the injustice of the

high Rents, to which Publick-Houses are generally advanced, so as very often to exceed double the Rents of private ones of the same real Goodness. This tempts the Land-lords of Houses to let them for that Purpose; and this tempts, and, as they will probably urge, obliges the Tenants, by some Means or other, to make more than ordinary Gains upon their Guests; but surely neither of them consider what they are about; how they jointly conspire to carry on a Trade of Iniquity, and are Partakers of each other’s Sins. He that lets his House for a publick one, only because he can thereby advance his Rent, is not aware how deeply he is concern’d in all the Wickedness that is consequent thereupon; and he who gives above the just Value of an House upon the same Account, does not regard how many Tricks and Frauds, what Impositions and Extortions, what Allowance of Wickedness and Debauchery, what a continued Scene of Iniquity, in short, he will be tempted to go through, in Order to discharge so heavy a burthen of expences, and yet to maintain himself and his family.

[Pg 281]

Secondly, he urges that the landlord should avoid and decline every thing that may encourage intemperance.

The World is indeed sufficiently inclin’d to Sensuality of all Sorts, and Multitudes do frequent Publick-Houses, especially with a previous Purpose and Design of committing Excess. But even those, who design it not, are often betray’d into it by the Arts and Contrivances of them, who are to be Gainers by it, by drawing them on from one Quantity to another, by helping ‘em to Companions that will set forward Intemperance, or by doing it themselves; but especially by giving Credit to those of the meaner Sort, who must otherwise be sober upon Necessity.

‘Tis surprizing to observe, what Scores a Sot shall be allow’d to contract at some Houses for Liquor, who would not be trusted for half the Sum by any of his Neighbours, to provide Bread for his Family; one, who thus reduces them to a Necessity of begging, stealing, or perishing, whilst he riotously consumes what might preserve them from all; but this he finds Means to do, through the Encouragement of those who have so little love for their neighbours that they care not how many families they starve to support their own.

The little book is thoroughly worthy to be reprinted. Would that every one engaged in ‘the trade’ would lay its maxims to heart!

About this time was published a guide-book, under the title of Vade-mecum of Malt-worms, containing a list of all the ale-houses in London, &c. Some of these, says Wright, in his Caricature History of the Georges, under the name of mug-houses, became the resort of small societies or clubs of political partisans. Some of these were the scenes of terrible party turbulence.

But we cannot leave the first Hanoverian reign without noticing another treatise much needed—quite as much—viz. that of Dr. Peter Browne, Bishop of Cork, who in 1716 wrote A Discourse of Drinking Healths.

By this time the abuse of the practice of toasting had become a national disgrace.

[Pg 282]

The way in which anything or anybody that one drank a health to, came to be called a toast has baffled derivation hunters of all degrees, and we are no wiser to-day than we were in 1709, when Isaac Bickerstaffe, in the twenty-fourth number of the newly-established Tatler, attempted to settle the matter by saying how, at Bath, in the time of Charles II., a celebrated beauty happened to be in the Cross-Bath, and out of the crowd of her admirers who were in the room, one of them took from her bath a cup of the water in which the lady was standing and drank her health to the company. Another of her admirers who was present, being half intoxicated, instead of pledging or drinking in response to the sentiment, announced his attention of jumping into the water and carrying off the bather, swearing that though he liked not the liquor, yet he would have the toast. He was opposed in his resolution, yet this whim gave foundation to the present honour which is due to the lady we mention in our liquor, who has ever since been called a toast. It is far more likely that, as Ellis observes, the use of the word on this occasion was a consequence of its previous employment for a like purpose, and not the cause of its being adopted. It is probable that toast came to be used in the sense it is stated to have been by the bath gallant, gradually, at first meaning a mere material relish or improvement to a glass of liquor, and afterwards getting to be applied to the ‘sentimental relish,’ or, as Sheridan truly calls it, the ‘excuse for the glass.’ Toasted bread formed a favourite addition to English drinks so early as the sixteenth century, and in the cups of sack and punch, brown toasts frequently floated at the top. In Wyther’s Abuses Stript and Whipt (published 1618) mention is made, as has been already noticed, of a draught ‘that must be spiced with a nut-browne tost.’

[Pg 283]

Hall states that there were some who drank healths upon their knees; some put their own blood into their drink and then drank a health to the king. So that the young Hectors not only cultivated habits of barbarity, but also linked themselves with blasphemy. But there was one other way of drinking healths still to be told, a piece of unparalleled tomfoolery—that of toasting a lady in some nauseous decoction. When this fashion was popular, two students at Oxford were each enamoured of the reigning belle of that sober University, and, as a test of the relative depth of their devotion, they applied themselves to toasting her in the manner we have mentioned. One, determined to prove that his love did not stick at trifles, took a spoonful of soot, mixed it with his wine, and drank off the mixture. His companion, determined not to be outdone, brought from his closet a phial of ink, which he drank, exclaiming, ‘Io triumphe and Miss Molly.’ These crackbrained young men also esteemed it a great privilege to get possession of any great beauty’s shoe, in order that they might ladle wine out of a bowl down their throats with it, the while they drank to the ‘lady of little worth’ or the ‘light-heeled mistress’ who had been its former wearer.

Is there any wonder that Dr. Peter Browne spoke out? He strongly condemned the practice on theological, moral, and common-sense grounds, of opinion that it had its origin in Pagan usages, though he is vague as to the particular custom out of which it arose. He classifies the various acceptations of a health under six heads:—(1) When a curse or imprecation is intended upon the person drinking, or (2) upon any other person; (3) when one drinks in honourable[Pg 284] remembrance of absent living friends; or (4) by way of wishing others health and prosperity; or (5) in token of our respect and good-will to another, or approbation of any affair; and (6) as an outward indication of our loyalty. All such health-drinking, the learned prelate urges, is incompatible with the duty of good Christians, whom he exhorts to suppress the practice. He also cites an interesting formula used by the Jews in drinking, which is the first instance, to my knowledge, of a curse being intended instead of an expression of good-will; the words, upon the authority of Buxtorf, meaning, in their ordinary signification, ‘much good may it do you;’ but the utterer thereof, by a kind of mental reservation or adaptation, implied a curse—nay, as many curses as the letters stand for, viz. 165.[210]

From incidental notices we discover how very exceptional was the absence of toasts. Thus, in a description of home life at Badminton, we read:—

If the gentlemen chose a glass of wine the civil offers were made to go down into the vaults, which were very large and sumptuous, or servants, at a sign given, attended with salvers, &c., and many a brisk went round about; but no sitting at table with tobacco and healths, as the common use is.[212]

[Pg 285]

But the full extent of the unbridled excess of the period can best be estimated from a survey of the legislative enactments of the reign of the second George. They are worthy of careful consideration.

In the second year of this reign such a duty was placed upon spirits as to be nearly tantamount to a prohibition of their retail sale. A duty of 20l. was imposed on the spirit retail licence, which for the first time was ordered to be renewed annually. Moreover, dealers in spirits were placed under the same regulations as Publicans, in respect to Licences. This Act, after reciting the inconveniences arising from persons being licensed to keep inns and common ale-houses by justices living at a distance, who were not truly informed as to the need of such inns, or the character of the persons licensed, provides that no licence to keep an inn, ale-house, or victualling-house, or to retail strong waters, should be granted, but at a general meeting of justices of the division. This Act failed to answer the purpose of its promoters. Hawkers went about the streets selling coloured spirits under feigned names; so in the sixth year of the same reign the Act was repealed, and in its place an Act was passed (1732) which imposed a penalty of 10l. upon the retail sale of spirits, except sold in dwelling-houses. By this masterpiece of wisdom (!) every householder was potentially converted into a publican; nor did they fail to avail themselves of the perm[Pg 286]ission. Intemperance spread like a plague.

When matters had reached a pitch absolutely intolerable, a petition was presented to Parliament (Feb. 20, 1736) from the magistrates of Middlesex assembled at quarter sessions. In this petition it was stated:—

That the drinking of Geneva, and other distilled liquors, had for some years past greatly increased:

That the constant and excessive use thereof had destroyed thousands of his Majesty’s subjects:

That great numbers of others were by its use rendered unfit for useful labor, debauched in morals, and drawn into all manner of vice and wickedness:

That those pernicious liquors were not only sold by distillers and geneva shop-keepers, but by many persons in inferior trades, by which means journeymen apprentices and servants were drawn in to taste and by degrees to like, approve, and immoderately to drink thereof:

That the public welfare and safety, as well as the trade of the nation, would be greatly affected by it:

That the practice was dangerous to the health, strength, peace, and morals; and tended greatly to diminish the labour and industry of his Majesty’s subjects.[213]

Upon the petition being referred to a committee of the entire House, it was resolved:—

That the low price of spirituous liquors is the principal inducement to the excessive and pernicious use thereof.

That in order to prevent this excessive and pernicious use, a discouragement be given thereto by a duty to be laid on spirits sold by retail.

That the selling of such liquors be restrained to persons keeping [Pg 287]public brandy-shops, victualling-houses, coffee-houses, ale-houses, innholders, and to such Surgeons and Apothecaries as shall make use of it by way of medicine only.[214]

The Government were at last in earnest: a bill was introduced, the intention of which was to strike a fatal blow, to annihilate the gin traffic. But the blow was too sudden. A rebound was almost inevitable. The Gin Act, which has rendered the year 1736 famous in the annals of history, was introduced into and carried through Parliament by Sir Joseph Jekyll. It runs thus:—

Whereas the excessive drinking of spirituous liquors by the common people tends not only to the destruction of their health and the debauching of their morals, but to the public ruin:

For remedy thereof—

Be it enacted, that from September 29th no person shall presume, by themselves or any others employed by them, to sell or retail any brandy, rum, arrack, usquebaugh, geneva, aqua vitæ, or any other distilled spirituous liquors, mixed or unmixed, in any less quantity than two gallons, without first taking out a licence for that purpose within ten days at least before they sell or retail the same; for which they shall pay down 50l., to be renewed ten days before the year expires, paying the like sum, and in case of neglect to forfeit 100l., such licenses to be taken out within the limits of the penny post at the chief office of Excise, London, and at the next office of Excise for the country. And be it enacted that for all such spirituous liquors as any retailers shall be possessed of on or after September 29th, 1736, there shall be paid a duty of 20s. per gallon, and so in proportion for a greater or lesser quantity above all other duties charged on the same.

The collecting the rates by this Act imposed to be under the management of the commissioners and officers of Excise by all the Excise laws now in force (except otherwise provided by this Act), and all moneys arising by the said duties or licenses for sale thereof shall be paid into the receipt of his Majesty’s Exchequer distinctly from other branches of the public revenue; one moiety of the fines, penalties, and forfeitures to be paid to his Majesty and successors, the other to the person who shall inform on any one for the same.

The Act was virtually prohibitive. But the people [Pg 288]were too far gone to bear it. It was ineffectual to check even the progress of intemperance. The vices of the populace rendered them desperate. The Act, says Dr. Lees, produced vast excitement.

The populace of London, Bristol, Norwich, and other towns, honoured what they called the ‘death of Madame Gin’ with formal ‘funeral’ processions, whereat many of her devoted admirers, male and female, got ‘gloriously drunk.’ The distillers took out wine licences, offered gin—spiced and wined—for sale, under a new name; while drams were sold in the brandy-shops, under the quaint appellations of ‘Sangree,’ ‘Tom Row,’ ‘Cuckold’s Comfort,’ ‘Parliament Gin,’ ‘The Last Shift,’ ‘Ladies’ Delight,’ ‘King Theodore of Corsica,’ ‘Cholic-and-Gripe-Waters,’ &c. Lord Cholmondeley said, on the part of the Government, that the law exposed them to rebellion, and that they had information of its being designed; but by parading the troops in the dangerous locality, they had probably prevented riot and bloodshed. In March 1738 a proclamation was passed to enforce the Act and to protect the efforts of the officers of justice.

The consumption of spirits in England and Wales rose from 13,500,000 gallons in 1734, to 19,000,000 in 1742, and there were within the bills of mortality more than 20,000 houses and shops in which gin was sold by retail. As might be expected, informers became objects of popular hatred, and were hunted through the streets. Of course, the more respectable traffickers abandoned the proscribed business, which fell into the hands of reckless and disreputable men, who set at nought the provisions of the law. ‘Within two years of the passing of the Act,’ says the historian, though 12,000 persons had been convicted of offences against it, ‘it had become odious and contemptible;’ and policy, as well as humanity, forced the commissioners of excise to mitigate its penalties.

[Pg 289]

The House of Lords soon rang with impetuous debate; and the Act was doomed to modification. In 1743, the Lords read a Bill for repealing certain Duties on Spirituous Liquors and on Licences for retailing the same. In the debate, Lord Hervey remarked:—

As it is the quality of this malignant liquor to corrupt the mind, it likewise destroys the body.... Drunkenness not only corrupts men by taking away those restraints by which they are withheld from the perpetration of villanies, but by superadding the temptations of poverty—temptations not easily resisted even by those whose eyes are open to the consequences of their actions, but which will certainly prevail over those whose apprehensions are laid asleep, and who never extend their views beyond the gratification of the present moment.... Instead, therefore, of promoting a practice so evidently detrimental to society, let us oppose it with the most vigorous efforts; let us begin our opposition by opposing this bill, and then consider whether the execution of the former law shall be enforced, or whether another more efficacious can be formed.... No man, unacquainted with the motives by which senatorial debates are too often influenced, would suspect that after the pernicious qualities of this liquor, and the general inclination among the people to the immoderate use of it, it could be afterwards enquired, Whether this universal thirst for poison ought to be encouraged by the legislature?

Lord Lonsdale said—In every part of this great metropolis, whoever shall pass along the streets, will find wretchedness stretched upon the pavement, insensible and motionless, and only removed by the charity of passengers from the danger of being crushed by carriages or trampled by horses, or strangled with filth in the common sewers; and others, less helpless perhaps, but more dangerous, who have drunk too much to fear punishment, but not enough to hinder them from provoking it.... No man can pass a single hour in public places without meeting such objects, or hearing such expressions as disgrace human nature,—such as cannot be looked upon without horror, or heard without indignation, and which there is no possibility of removing or preventing, whilst this hateful liquor is publicly SOLD.... These liquors not[Pg 290] only infatuate the mind, but poison the body; they not only fill our streets with madmen and our prisons with criminals, but our hospitals with cripples.... Nor does the use of spirits, my lords, only impoverish the public by lessening the number of useful and laborious hands, but by cutting off those recruits by which its natural and inevitable losses are to be supplied. The use of distilled liquors impairs the fecundity of the human race, and hinders that increase which Providence has ordained for the support of the world. Those women who riot in this poisonous debauchery are quickly disabled from bearing children, or, what is still more destructive to general happiness, produce children diseased from their birth, and who, therefore, are an additional burden, and must be supported through a miserable life by that labour which they cannot share, and must be protected by that community of which they cannot contribute to the defence.[215]

Notwithstanding volleys of violent opposition, especially from the Bishops, the Bill was carried: sixty per cent. of the House voting in its favour. The law was again relaxed. Parliament was overwhelmed with petitions which were the expression of a disappointed philanthropy.

The petitions of the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London, state, ‘that the common and habitual use of spirituous liquors by the lower ranks of people, prevails to such a degree, that it destroys the health, strength, and industry of the poor of both sexes and all ages, inflames them with rage and barbarity, and occasions frequent robberies and murders in the streets of the Metropolis.’ The petition from the Minister and Churchwardens of St. Martin’s, Westminster, recites that in consequence of the low price of spirits, their use has become excessive—‘the substance of the people is wasted—idleness and disorder have taken the place of industry—and robberies and murders are committed under their influence.’ The petition from Bristol states, ‘that the bad effects of spirituous liquors have become apparent in the destruction of the habits of the people—corrupting their morals, and rendering them incapable of manly employments’—reducing them to poverty, [Pg 291]and hardening them to the commission of crimes of the utmost enormity. That of the Merchants adds—‘commerce was injured.’ These crowds of petitions almost universally affirm that the great increase in the number of Gin-shops, and the low price of the article, were the causes of its excessive use amongst the lower orders.

On these representations, the House again resolved ‘That it was necessary to regulate the sale of spirits by retail.’ Measures were adopted for the suppression of smuggling, and the celebrated Tippling Act was passed.[216]

By this Act, no persons could recover for the price of spirits sold in less quantities than 20s. at one time.

But just in proportion as spirits were rendered legally inaccessible, appetite was diverted into the channel of beer. The rent was made possibly worse. Hitherto it had been necessary to impose restrictions upon the article sold; now the vendor must furnish guarantees. The 26th of the same George, after declaring former laws to be defective and insufficient, required the justices, when they granted licences, to take the recognisances of the persons licensed in 10l., and two sureties of 5l., for good conduct, with other restrictions.

The page of events at this time is eminently instructive. A government cannot be far in advance of the people whom it governs. Extreme repression has been and ever will be evaded. In the present instance, not only was a demand for beer created, but resort was had to any and every expedient to glut the appetite upon the favourite spirit. The clandestine sale of gin was the natural consequence. The gaols groaned under the burden of atonement for unpaid penalties. Within two years of the passing of the Gin Act some twelve thousand persons had been punished for its violation. The measure proved a failure, for (as Smollett observes) though no licence was obtained, and no duty paid, the liqu[Pg 292]or continued to be sold in all corners of the streets; informers were intimidated by the threats of the people, and the justices of the peace, either from indolence or corruption, neglected to put the law into execution.

It is important to compare the consumption of low wines (weak spirits) and spirits, before and after the passing of the Act. The total consumption for England and Wales in 1733 was 11,282,890 gallons; and in 1742 the consumption was 19,897,300 gallons. No wonder that the Act was repealed. Had the Government imposed a graduated scale of duty upon spirits, a scale ever sliding upwards, their price might have been raised by almost insensible stages, till the means of purchase would have been well-nigh precluded.

But in other directions a wiser legislation found favour. Distillation from grain, malt, or flour was prohibited, and when it was proposed in Parliament to relax this measure, abundant were the petitions for its retention. It was therefore resolved that the law should be in force till December 1759: and the success of the measure is established from the fact that the consumption of spirits in England and Wales fell, from the nineteen millions of 1742, to an annual average of about four millions during the interval between the years 1760 and 1782.

Much is said in the present day of female intemperance. The Lords’ Committee had aroused public attention to the subject. But it was rife enough in the period under discussion. A poet of the century makes no secret of the proclivity.[217]

[Pg 293]

Britannia this upas-tree bought of Mynheer,
Removed it through Holland and planted it here;
‘Tis now a stock plant of the genus wolf’s bane,
And one of them blossoms in Marybone Lane.

The House that surrounds it stands first in the row,
Two doors at right angles swing open below;
And the children of misery daily steal in,
And the poison they draw they denominate Gin.

There enter the prude, and the reprobate boy,
The mother of grief and the daughter of joy,
The serving-maid slim, and the serving-man stout,
They quickly steal in, and they slowly reel out.

The following incident related in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1748, points to a terrible condition of things:—

At a christening at Beddington in Surrey, the nurse was so intoxicated that after she had undress’d the child, instead of laying it in the cradle, she put it behind a large fire, which burnt it to death in a few minutes. She was examin’d before a magistrate, and said she was quite stupid and senseless, so that she took the child for a log of wood; on which she was discharged!!

Nor was any class of society exempt from the imputation; but the curtain need not be drawn.

And what a stream of ability and learning was polluted by those mischievous compounds! Men of letters, tragedians, statesmen, fell—ignobly fell—before the insidious destroyer.

Bolingbroke, when in office, sat up whole nights drinking, and in the morning, having bound a wet napkin round his forehead and his eyes, to drive away the effects of his intemperance, he hastened without sleep to his official business.[218]

[Pg 294]

Lord Stair, in a letter to Horace Walpole, writes:—

Poor Harry (Bolingbroke) is turned out from being Secretary of State.... They call him knave and traitor.... I believe all poor Harry’s fault was that he could not play his part with a grave enough face.... He got drunk now and then.

Lord Cartaret, afterwards Earl Granville, was a great scholar, and a man of invariable high spirits.

The period of his ascendency was known by the name of the Drunken Administration; and the expression was not altogether figurative. His habits were extremely convivial; and champagne probably lent its aid to keep him in that state of joyous excitement in which his life was passed.... Driven from office, he retired laughing to his books and his bottle.... Ill as he had been used, he did not seem, says Horace Walpole, to have any resentment, or indeed any feeling except thirst.[219]

Macaulay implies that Cartaret occasionally varied his champagne for ‘a daily half gallon of Burgundy.’

William Pulteney, created ‘Earl of Bath’ on the resignation of Walpole, has been generally reckoned amongst the men of the bottle. Indeed, Mr. Lecky remarks (i. 478) that he ‘is said to have shortened his life by drinking.’ But how can this be? He lived to the fairly respectable age of 82. Has he not been confounded with some namesake? For what says this same author in another volume?—‘Lord Bath, the old rival of Walpole, subscribed liberally to the orphanage of Georgia, and was a frequent and apparently devout attendant at Whitefield’s Chapel in Tottenham Court Road.’ In fact in his old age he became a Methodist. Was such a man likely to be a hard drinker?

Of Walpole, Mr. Lecky remarks, that when he was a young man, his father was accustomed to pour into his glass a double portion of wine, saying, ‘Come, Robert, you shall drink twice while I drink once; for I will not [Pg 295]permit the son in his sober senses to be witness of the intoxication of his father.’

It speaks volumes for the son of such a father, that when Mr. Chute gibed him for stupidity, which he set down to ‘temperance diet,’ Walpole protested, saying, ‘I have such lamentable proofs every day of the stupefying qualities of beef, ale, and wine, that I have contracted a most religious veneration for your spiritual nourriture.’

Methodism, drinking, and gambling, were all on the increase. So says Walpole. Of the first, he sarcastically says,—‘It increases as fast as any religious nonsense did.’ Of the second he remarks,—‘Drinking is at the highest wine-mark.’ But people were gluttons as well as drunkards.

The aristocracy of letters were infected, no less than that of rank. Truly did Chesterfield observe, that wine and wassail have taken more strong places than gun or steel. Jonathan Swift is generally regarded as a free liver, though probably the company he kept is often answerable for the imputation. The following notices must serve as material for judgment. Dr. King states that about three years before his death, he observed that he was affected by the wine which he drank after dinner; next day, on his complaining of his health, he took the liberty to tell him he had drunk too much wine. Swift was startled, and replied that he always regarded himself as a very temperate man, and never exceeded the quantity his physician prescribed. But, according to King, his physician never drank less than two bottles of claret after dinner. But King was a water-drinker.[220] Scott says of Swift’s entertainments that they were economical, ‘although his guests, so far as conviviality was consistent with decorum, were welcomed with excellent wine. Swift, who used to declare he was never intoxicat[Pg 296]ed in his life, had nevertheless lived intimately with those at whose tables wine was liberally consumed, and he was not himself averse to the moderate use of it.’ The same author adds that Dr. King said that Swift drank about a pint of claret after dinner, which the doctor considered too much.

On the other hand his satirists accused him of excess. One of them says, ‘He was heard to make some self-denying promises in prayer, that, for the time to come, he would stint himself to two or three bottles in an evening.’[221] Again, the Archbishop of Cashel seems to have known his weak point. In a letter, inviting him on a visit, and giving him minute instructions as to the route, he baits him by the intelligence that he would pass a parson’s cabin where was a private cellar of which the parson kept the key, in which was always a hogshead of the best wine that could be got, in bottles well-corked, upon their side.[222]

His poems often betrayed the flavour of the bottle. Witness his Country Quarter Sessions, which begins:—

Three or four parsons full of October,
Three or four squires between drunk and sober.

Again, in his Baucis and Philemon; Goody Baucis in bestirring herself to provide the hermit’s hospitality—

Then stepp’d aside to fetch ‘em drink,
[Pg 297]Fill’d a large jug up to the brink,
And saw it fairly twice go round.

Somerville, the author of The Chase, was no doubt fond of the bottle, as we see very clearly from the letter of his friend Shenstone after his death:—

Our old friend Somerville is dead! I did not imagine I could have been so sorry as I find myself on this occasion.—Sublatum quærimus. I can now excuse all his foibles; impute them to age, and to distress of circumstances: the last of these considerations wrings my very soul to think on. For a man of high spirit, conscious of having (at least in one production) generally pleased the world, to be plagued and threatened by wretches that are low in every sense; to be forced to drink himself into pains of the body, in order to get rid of the pains of the mind, is a misery.

James Quin the tragedian was a bon vivant. After being engaged at Drury Lane Theatre, a tavern brawl involved him in law proceedings, and he was obliged for a time to leave the country. His epitaph, by Garrick, depicts the man:—

A plague on Egypt’s arts! I say;
Embalm the dead, on senseless clay
Rich wines and spices waste!
Like sturgeon, or like brawn, shall I,
Bound in a precious pickle, lie,
Which I shall never taste.

Let me embalm this flesh of mine
With turtle fat and Bordeaux wine,
And spoil th’ Egyptian trade.
Than Humphry’s Duke more happy I;
Embalm’d alive, old Quin shall die,
A mummy ready made.

Richard Savage lived a very profligate life. Johnson says that ‘in no time of his life was it any part of his character to be the first of the company that desired to separate.’ It was when inebriated that he killed one Mr. James Sinclair, 1727, and was within an ace of being hanged for the same. Lord Tyrconnel, who had been very kind to him, and suddenly dropped him, gives a very bad account of his drinking habits.

[Pg 298]

He affirmed that it was the constant practice of Mr. Savage to enter a tavern with any company that proposed it, drink the most expensive wines with great profusion, and when the reckoning was demanded, be without money: if, as it often happened, his company were willing to defray his part, the affair ended without any ill consequences; but if they were refractory, and expected that the wine should be paid for by him that drank it, his method of composition was to take them with him to his own apartment, assume the government of the house, and order the butler in an imperious manner to set the best wine in the cellar before his company, who often drank till they forgot the respect due to the house in which they were entertained, indulged themselves in the utmost extravagance of merriment, practised the most licentious frolics, and committed all the outrages of drunkenness.

No wonder Lord Tyrconnel dropped him. Even Savage himself admitted that Lord Tyrconnel ‘often exhorted him to regulate his method of life, and not to spend all his nights in taverns, and that he appeared desirous that he would pass those hours with him, which he so freely bestowed upon others.’ The poor fellow eventually, having estranged all his friends by his petulance as well as his bad habits, got deplorably poor, and ‘wandered about the town, slighted and neglected, in quest of a dinner, which he did not always obtain.’ It was at this period that we read the extraordinary account of him, that ‘he was not able to bear the smell of meat till the action of his stomach was restored by a cordial.’ On one occasion in great distress at Bristol, ‘he received a remittance of five pounds from London, with which he provided himself a decent coat, and determined to go to London, but unhappily spent his money at a favourite tavern.’

The tale goes on, ‘Thus was he again confined to Bristol, where he was every day hunted by bailiffs. In this exigence he once more found a friend, who sheltered[Pg 299] him in his house, though at the usual inconveniences with which his company was attended; for he could neither be persuaded to go to bed in the night nor to rise in the day.’

But if many were the victims of excess, many too were the champions of restraint; and, first of all, we turn to Dr. Samuel Johnson. In his early life he drank wine; let him testify for himself.

In an interesting conversation with an old college friend, one Edwards, held April 17, 1778, he made a remark which Sir Wilfrid Lawson would hail:—

Edwards. How do you live, sir? For my part, I must have my regular meals and a glass of good wine. I find I require it.

Johnson. I now drink no wine, sir. Early in life I drank wine; for many years I drank none. I then for some years drank a good deal....

Edwards. I am grown old: I am sixty-five.

Johnson. I shall be sixty-eight next birthday. Come, sir, drink water, and put in for a hundred.

When he first came to London, at the age of 29, he abstained entirely (teste Boswell) from fermented liquors, ‘a practice to which he rigidly conformed for many years together at different periods of his life.’ Upon this point Croker has a suggestive note, apropos of the effect of drink on hypochondria:—

At this time his abstinence from wine may perhaps be attributed to poverty, but in his subsequent life he was restrained from that indulgence by, as it appears, moral, or rather medical, considerations. He found by experience that wine, though it dissipated for a moment, yet eventually aggravated the hereditary disease under which he suffered; and perhaps it may have been owing to a long course of abstinence that his mental health seems to have been better in the latter than in the[Pg 300] earlier portion of his life. He says, in his Prayers and Meditations (August 17, 1767), ‘By abstinence from wine and suppers I obtained sudden and great relief, and had freedom of mind restored to me; which I have wanted for all this year, without being able to find any means of obtaining it.’ These remarks are important, because depression of spirits is too often treated on a contrary system, from ignorance of or inattention to what may be its real cause.

Dr. Johnson was very often chiefly indebted to tea for his literary afflatus. ‘The quantities which he drank of the infusion of that fragrant leaf,’ says Boswell, ‘at all hours were so great, that his nerves must have been uncommonly strong, not to have been extremely relaxed by such an intemperate use of it.’ In his defence of Tea against Mr. Jonas Hanway, Johnson describes himself as ‘a hardened and shameless tea-drinker, who has for many years diluted his meals with only the infusion of this fascinating plant; whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnights, and with tea welcomes the morning.’ This last phrase his friend, Tom Tyers, happily parodied, ‘te veniente die—te decedente.’

Boswell often pauses to descant upon

Dr. Johnson’s Temperance.

September 16, 1773.—Last night much care was taken of Dr. Johnson, who was still distressed by his cold. He had hitherto most strangely slept without a nightcap. Miss Macleod made him a large flannel one, and he was prevailed with to drink a little brandy when he was going to bed. He has great virtue in not drinking wine or any fermented liquor because, as he acknowledged to us, he could not do it in moderation. Lady Macleod would hardly believe him, and said, ‘I am sure, sir, you would not carry it too far.’—Johnson. ‘Nay, madam, it carried me. I took the opportunity of a long illness to leave it off. It was then prescribed to me not to drink wine; and, having broken off the habit, I have never returned to it.’

Again, says Boswell:—

[Pg 301]

A.D. 1776.—Finding him still persevering in his abstinence from wine, I ventured to speak to him of it.—Johnson. Sir, I have no objection to a man’s drinking wine, if he can do it in moderation. I found myself apt to go into excess in it, and therefore, after having been for some time without it on account of illness, I thought it better not to return to it. Every man is to judge for himself, according to the effects which he experiences. One of the fathers tells us he found fasting made him so peevish that he did not practise it.

Dr. B. W. Richardson’s ideas about the harm done to constitutions by excessive palpitation of the heart (especially under the action of alcohol) seem to have had shadows cast before. Boswell’s hero rather pooh-poohed the idea, in a conversation after dinner at Thrale’s, April 10, 1776:—

Johnson mentioned Dr. Barry’s System of Physic. ‘He was a man,’ said he, ‘who had acquired a high reputation in Dublin, came over to England, and brought his reputation with him. His notion was, that pulsation occasions death by attrition, and that therefore the way to preserve life is to retard pulsation. But we know that pulsation is strongest in infants, and that we increase in growth while it operates in its regular course; so it cannot well be the cause of destruction.’

This Barry became a Baronet—Sir Edward Barry, Bart. ‘He published, in 1775, a curious work on the Wines of the Ancients.’

It should not be forgotten that when Dr. Johnson did drink, he drank heavily. On April 7, 1778, he said he had drunk three bottles of port at a time without being the worse for it. ‘University College has witnessed this.’ He could practise abstinence, but not temperance.

Boswell’s own ideas upon drinking are worth recording:—

I observed [says he of himself, April 12, 1776] that wine did some people harm, by inflaming, confusing, and irritat[Pg 302]ing their minds; but that the experience of mankind had declared in favour of moderate drinking.

Sir Joshua Reynolds on the same occasion expressed similar ideas. He argued that ‘a moderate glass enlivened the mind, by giving a proper circulation to the blood.’

Probably Reynolds had studied the Familiar Letters of the Historiographer-Royal, Howell, who, as before noticed, thought that ‘good wine makes good blood.’

Johnson lived to see, as he believed, a change for the better, in the direction of temperance.

Anno Domini 1773.—We talked of change of manners. Dr. Johnson observed that our drinking less than our ancestors was owing to the change from ale to wine. ‘I remember,’ said he, ‘when all the decent people in Lichfield got drunk every night, and were not the worse thought of. Ale was cheap, so you pressed strongly. When a man must bring a bottle of wine, he is not in such haste.’ [Johnson was sixty-four at the time.]

It seems strange that Johnson’s influence over his minion’s habits was so slight. At any rate the following anecdote points to this conclusion:—

Lord Eldon tells us, in his ‘Anecdote Book,’ that at an assize in Lancaster about the year 1782, Jemmy Boswell, the biographer of Dr. Johnson, was found dead drunk and stretched upon the pavement. His merry colleagues, of whom the sage Lord Eldon was one, subscribed among them a guinea at supper, which they sent next morning to Boswell, with instructions to move in Court for the writ of ‘Quare adhæsit pavimento.’ In vain did the perplexed and bibulous barrister apply to all the attorneys of his acquaintance for information as to the nature of the writ for which he was instructed to move, and great was the astonishment of the Judge when the application was made to him. At last one of the Bar, amidst the laughter of the Court, exclaimed, ‘My Lord, Mr. Boswell adhæsit pavimento last night. There was no moving him for some time. At length he was carried to bed, and has been dreaming of what happened to himself.’

[Pg 303]

It is unfortunate that Johnson should have been guilty of the lapsus linguæ for which Bacchanalians have often claimed him as their hero, and by which careful historians have been misled. Mr. Mallet, speaking of the Icelanders of the middle ages, tells that ‘after they had finished eating their boiled horseflesh, they generally sat swilling their ale out of capacious drinking-horns and listening to the lay of a skald, or the tale of a Saga-man, until they were most of them in that happy state of mind, when, according to Johnson, man is alone capable of enjoying the passing moment of his fleeting existence.’ He refers doubtless to a saying of the savant recorded by his biographer. Johnson being asked whether a man was not sometimes happy in the moment that was present, answered, ‘Never but when he is drunk.’ Most Johnsonians would readily admit that this was a lapsus, a sally of the moment, not his deliberate judgment, such as is obtainable from a set work like his incomparable Rasselas. There we read:—‘Intemperance, though it may fire the spirits for an hour, will make life short or miserable.’

Oliver Goldsmith, in The Bee, has some pungent observations upon ale-houses:—

Ale-houses are ever an occasion of debauchery and excess, and either in a religious or political light it would be our highest interest to have the greatest part of them suppressed. They should be put under laws of not continuing open beyond a certain hour, and harbouring only proper persons. These rules, it may be said, will diminish the necessary taxes; but this is false reasoning, since what was consumed in debauchery abroad would, if such a regulation took place, be more justly and perhaps more equitably for the workman’s family spent at home: and this, cheaper to them and without loss of time. On the other hand, our ale-houses, being ever open, interrupt business.

[Pg 304]

This same delightful author wrote that convivial satire entitled The Three Pigeons, which he put into the mouth of Tony Lumpkin in She Stoops to Conquer, of which the following is a part:—

Let schoolmasters puzzle their brain
With grammar, and nonsense, and learning;
Good liquor, I stoutly maintain,
Gives genus a better discerning.

When Methodist preachers come down,
A-preaching that drinking is sinful,
I’ll wager the rascals a crown,
They always preach best with a skin-full.

Then come, put the jorum about,
And let us be merry and clever;
Our hearts and our liquors are stout,
Here’s the Three Jolly Pigeons for ever!

Shenstone, another contemporary poet, though he spent so large a portion of his time in adorning The Leasowes, till he had made it a kind of rural paradise, could also rave about the freedom of an inn:—

‘Tis here with boundless power I reign,
And every health which I begin
Converts dull port to bright champagne;
Such freedom crowns it at an inn.

Whoe’er has travelled life’s dull round,
Where’er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think he still has found
The warmest welcome at an inn.

And the same spirit breathes again in the Deserted Village of Goldsmith. The village ale-house is clearly included among the ‘simple blessings of the lowly train.’ Yet there is nothing to condemn in the sentiments there expressed, and we may echo the words of Sir Walter Scott:—

[Pg 305]

The wreath of Goldsmith is unsullied; he wrote to exalt virtue and expose vice; and he accomplished his task in a manner which raises him to the highest rank among British authors.

But we pass on to notice the man who did more than any one of his time to expose vice, and in particular the vice of intemperance. And this is not surprising when we consider the remarkable manner in which his genius for painting discovered itself.

Going out one Sunday with some companions to Highgate, they went into an inn, where they had not been long, before a quarrel arose between some persons in the same room. One of the disputants struck the other on the head with a quart pot, which cut him badly, and the blood ran down his face freely. This, with the contortions of his countenance, afforded a striking object to Hogarth, who drew out his pencil and sketched the scene.

It will be sufficient for the present purpose to note the part which drink plays in his Marriage à la Mode, the Rake’s Progress, and in two miscellaneous Plates. In the first mentioned, Counsellor Silvertongue begins his vile work of ensnaring the Viscountess by offering her a glass of light wine at an interval between the dances. Plate ii. represents the Viscount returning home the day after the entertainment. His appearance denotes that he has been involved in some drunken fray. Plate vi. depicts ‘sin when it is finished,’ the suicide of the beguiled Viscountess by means of laudanum.

Plate iii. of the Rake’s Progress illustrates the ‘orgie at the Rose Tavern.’ Young Rakewell is lavishly expending his money in plying with drink the caressing courtesans. He himself becomes intoxicated, and is of course robbed of his watch and jewellery; one of the wretched women, in a fit of rage, sets fire to a map of the world, swearing that she will burn the entire globe [Pg 306]and herself with it. The reflections of the morrow can be easily imagined.

In Gin Lane, the artist portrays a loathsome neighbourhood, the presiding genius of which is gin. To procure it no means are left untried. Every article of domestic comfort, even to the meanest shred of raiment, is carried to the pawnbroker for the wherewithal to purchase gin. The influence of this fire-water is everywhere apparent; in the ruined dwellings, in the sickly looks, in the emaciated frames, trembling limbs, carious teeth, livid lips, and sunken eyes. The very children in that region are habituated from the cradle to love gin. The one house that thrives is that of the pawnbroker. The details are agonising! a child ravenous, gnawing a bare bone, which a dog, equally the victim of famine, is snatching from him. A woman is seen pouring a dram down the throat of an infant. In a ruined house, the corpse of a hanging suicide is displayed. A drunken object is drawn, in female shape, whose legs have broken out in horrible ulcers, and who is taking snuff, regardless of her child slipping from her arms into the low area of the gin vault. Gin too has killed the female whom we see two men placing in a shell by order of the beadle, while the orphan child is being conveyed to the Union.

Well did the Reverend James Townley underwrite:—

Gin, cursed fiend! with fury fraught,
Makes human race a prey;
It enters by a deadly draught
And steals our life away.

[Pg 307]Virtue and Truth, driv’n to despair,
Its rage compels to fly;
But cherishes, with hellish care,
Theft, Murder, Perjury.

Damn’d cup! that on the vitals preys,
That liquid fire contains,
Which madness to the heart conveys,
And rolls it through the veins.

The general design of the Plate Beer Street is to expose the deadly habit of gin-drinking, and to teach that if man must drink strong liquors, beer is far the best to indulge in.

Edward Young, courtier, poet, rector, a general genius, satirised tea and wine as abused by the women of his day. After bemoaning the hecatomb sacrificed upon the altar of tea, he exclaims:—

But this inhuman triumph shall decline,
And thy revolting Naiads call for wine;
Spirits no longer shall serve under thee,
But reign in thy own cup, exploded Tea!
Citronia’s nose declares thy ruin nigh;
And who dares give Citronia’s nose the lie?
The ladies long at men of drink exclaimed,
And what impaired both health and virtue blamed.
At length, to rescue man, the generous lass
Stole from her consort the pernicious glass,
As glorious as the British Queen renown’d
Who suck’d the poison from her husband’s wound.

Another champion of temperance was John Armstrong, who wrote in 1744 The Art of Preserving Health. But he was no ascetic, for he writes:—

When you smooth
The brows of care, indulge your festive vein
In cups by well-informed experience found
The least your bane, and only with your friends.

[Pg 308]

The effects of a surfeit of drink he has most ably drawn:—

But most too passive, when the blood runs low,
Too weakly indolent to strive with pain,
And bravely by resisting conquer fate,
Try Circe’s arts; and in the tempting bowl
Of poisoned nectar sweet oblivion swill.
Struck by the powerful charm, the gloom dissolves
In empty air; Elysium opens round,
A pleasing frenzy buoys the lightened soul,
And sanguine hopes dispel your fleeting care;
And what was difficult, and what was dire,
Yields to your prowess and superior stars:
The happiest you of all that e’er were mad,
Or are, or shall be, could this folly last.
But soon your heaven is gone: a heavier gloom
Shuts o’er your head; and, as the thundering stream,
Swollen o’er its banks with sudden mountain rain,
Sinks from its tumult to a silent brook,
So, when the frantic raptures in your breast
Subside, you languish into mortal man;
You sleep, and waking find yourself undone,
For, prodigal of life, in one rash night
You lavished more than might support three days.
A heavy morning comes; your cares return
With tenfold rage. An anxious stomach well
May be endured; so may the throbbing head;
But such a dim delirium, such a dream,
Involves you; such a dastardly despair
Unmans your soul, as maddening Pentheus felt,
When, baited round Cithæron’s cruel sides,
He saw two suns, and double Thebes ascend.

How does this remind of the rich fool in the parable! The earlier lines of irony seem almost taken in idea from some sentiments of Hafiz, the favourite poet of the Persians.

I am [says he] neither a judge nor a priest, nor a censor, nor a lawyer; why should I forbid the use of wine?

[Pg 309]

Do not be vexed at the trifles of the world; drink, for it is folly for a wise man to be afflicted....

The only friends who are free from care are a goblet of wine and a book of odes.

Give me wine! wine that shall subdue the strongest: that I may for a time forget the cares and troubles of the world.

Armstrong joined in the general growl at the substitution of port for the lighter French wine.

In describing a man’s sensations on awaking he says:—

You curse the sluggish port, you curse the wretch,
The felon, with unnatural mixture, first
Who dared to violate the virgin wine.

Again, when speaking of wholesome wine, he praises:—

The gay, serene, good-natured Burgundy,
Or the fresh fragrant vintage of the Rhine.

Again, he describes Burgundy as the drink for gentlemen, and port as an abomination:—

The man to well-bred Burgundy brought up,
Will start the smack of Methuen in the cup.

What Armstrong said one hundred and thirty years ago I entreat my medical brethren to believe now. I repeat it: if you want to prescribe spirits, do so; if you want to give wine, give pure wine. One bottle of good Burgundy will give twice the flavour and half the spirit that port does.[223]

In 1735 was published A Friendly Admonition to the Drinkers of Brandy and other Distilled Spirituous Liquors. The author laments that man has found means to extract from what God intended for his refreshment, a most pernicious and intoxicating liquor. Singularly does this anonymous writer anticipate the results of modern inquiries. He tells us that distilled liquors coagulate and thicken the blood, contract and narrow the blood-vessels, as has been proved by experiments purposely made.

[Pg 310]

Whence [says he] we may evidently see the reason why those liquors do so frequently cause Obstructions and Stoppages in the Liver; whence the Jaundice, Dropsy, and many other fatal Diseases: It is in like manner also that they destroy and burn up the Lungs too: Hence also it is, that by frequently contracting and shrivelling, and then soon after relaxing, they weaken and wear out the Substance and Coats of the Stomach, on which they more immediately prey, every time they are drank: Hence, I say, it is, that these spirituous Liquors rarely fail to destroy the Appetite and Digestion of those who habituate themselves to them; for by drying up, and spoiling the Nerves, they make them insensible; they destroy also many of the very fine Blood-Vessels, especially where their Fibres are most tender, as in the Brain; whereby they spoil the Memory and intellectual Faculties: And by thus inflaming the Blood, and disordering the Blood Vessels and Nerves, they vitiate and deprave the Natural Temper.

When first drank, they seem to comfort the Stomach, by contracting its too relaxed and flabby Fibres, and also to warm the Blood; but as the Warmth which they give, on mixing with the Blood, soon goes off, as it is in fact found to do, when we mix Brandy with Blood; so also the spirituous Part of the Brandy being soon dissolved, and soaking into the watery Humours of the Body, it can no longer contract and warm the Substance and Coats of the Stomach and other Parts; which therefore as soon relaxing, the unhappy persons are thereby in a little time reduced to a cold, languid, and dispirited state, which gives them so much uneasiness that they are impatient to get out of it by Supplies of the same deadly Liquor, which, instead of curing, daily increases their Disease more and more.

But the worst is not yet told.

As when immediately put into the Veins of an Animal they cause sudden Death, so when drank in a large Quantity at once, they coagulate and thicken the Blood to such a degree as to kill instantly: And when they are not drank in such Quantities as to kill immediately, but are daily used, then, besides many other Di[Pg 311]seases, they are apt to breed Polypuses, or fleshy Substances in the Heart, by thickening the Blood there; which Polypuses, as they grow larger and larger, do, by hindering and retarding the Motion of the Blood through the Heart, thereby farther contribute to the Faintness and Dispiritedness of those unhappy Persons, and at length, by totally stopping the Course of the Blood, do as effectually kill, as if a Dart had been struck thro’ the Liver.

And again, speaking of these same spirituous liquors, he adds:—

Some may indeed be more palatable than others, but they are all in a manner equally pernicious and dangerous, that are of an equal Strength; and those most destructive and deadly, which are the strongest, that is, which have most Spirit in them. Which Spirit being of a very harsh, fiery, and acrimonious Nature, as it is found to seize on and harden raw Flesh put into it; so does it greatly injure the Stomach, Bowels, Liver, and all other Parts of human Bodies, especially the Nerves; which being the immediate and principal Instruments of Life and Action, hence it is, that it so remarkably enfeebles the habitual Drinkers of it; and also depraves the Memory, by hardening and spoiling the Substance of the Brain, which is the Seat of Life, and this is an Inconvenience which the great Drinkers of Punch often find, as well as the Dram Drinkers.

Fifteen years later (1751) a Scotchman, James Burgh (cousin to the historian Robertson), wrote A warning to Dram-Drinkers. Would that it had been effectual!

At this time cider seems to have risen to the dignity of civic feasts. At a feast held Nov. 5th, 1737, at an inn, the following are the charges:—[Pg 312]

Beer, Cider, Ale0810
Candles and tobacco036
Beer, gunners and drummers034
For firing016
Sugar, lemons, and glasses0140
Wine after the bill delivered060
Beer firing, tobacco0110

No bill for feast or treat at any place ... was found to have any mention of cider as used at table, and charged for with beer and ale before this one.[224]

In 1746 A Bowl of Punch appears as a novelty in the bill of a corporation dinner. When Coade was Mayor in 1737, sixteen bowls of punch were drunk at a corporation banquet.

Whitsun-ales were still in force. In the postscript of a letter from a minister to his parishioners in the Deanery of Stow, Gloucestershire, 1736, the author writes:—

What I have now been desiring you to consider as touching the evil and pernicious consequences of Whitsun-ales among us, doth also obtain against Dovers Meeting ... and also against Midsummer Ales and Mead-mowings; and likewise against the ordinary violations of those festival seasons commonly called Wakes.

In the year 1735 occurred a scene which fairly gives colour to the Secret History of the Calves’ Head Club. The following account is given in the letters of L’Abbé Le Blanc:—

Some young men of quality chose to abandon themselves to the debauchery of drinking healths on the 30th of January, a day appointed by the Church of England for a general fast, to expiate the murder of Charles I., whom they honour as a martyr. As soon as they were heated with wine, they began to sing. This gave great offence to the people, who stopped before the tavern, and gave them abusive language. One of these rash young men put his head out of the window and drank to the memory of the army which dethroned this king, and to the rebels which cut off his head upon a scaffold. The stones immediately flew from all parts, the furious populace broke the windows of the house, and would have set fire to it.

[Pg 313]

The Chapter Coffeehouse was opened at this time, famous for punch, pamphlets, and newspapers. Buchan, of Domestic Medicine fame, was an habitué; so was Dr. Gower.

These eminent physicians sat and prescribed for the maladies of their mates, Chapter punch; ‘If one won’t do, call for a second.’ But clubs, whatever they may have been, are anything but unfavourable to temperance now. The worst that can be honestly thought of them is—that they may minister to selfishness.

Thus are clubs an exception to the usual tendency of the moral law of gravitation—downwards. What is there in common, save the name, between the Athenæum of to-day, and the Roxburghe of the beginning of the century?

The entertainments of the latter have found their way into print under the title ‘Roxburghe Revels; or, An Account of the Annual Display, culinary and festivous, interspersed incidentally with matters of Moment or Merryment.’[225]

George III. was an example of moderation. One of his biographers, Edward Holt, observes:—

Exercise, air, and little diet were the grand fundamentals in the King’s idea of health and sprightliness: his Majesty fed chiefly on vegetables and drank little wine. The Queen was what many private gentlewomen styled whimsically abstemious.

The story is told that at Worcester, the mayor, knowing that the King never took drink before dinner, asked him if he would be pleased to take a jelly, when the King replied: ‘I do not recollect drinking a glass of wine before dinner in my life, yet upon this pleasing occasion [Pg 314]I will venture.’ A glass of rich old Mountain was served, when his Majesty immediately drank ‘Prosperity to the Corporation and Citizens of Worcester.’ This occurred in the twenty-eighth year of the King’s reign (1788). The rigid rule was still observed by his Majesty, as we learn from an incident which occurred twelve years later. One morning, when visiting as usual his stables, the King heard the following conversation between the grooms: ‘I don’t care what you say, Robert, but every one agrees that the man at the Three Tuns makes the best purl in Windsor.’ ‘Purl, purl!’ said the King, quickly. ‘Robert, what’s purl?’ This was explained to be warm beer with a glass of gin, &c. His Majesty listened attentively, and turning round, said: ‘I dare say, very good drink, but too strong for the morning; never drink in a morning.’

In the description of the King’s visit to Whitbread’s brewery, we learn incidentally the large scale on which even then the wholesale trade was conducted—e.g. in the great store were three thousand and seven barrels of beer. The stone cistern, into which he entered, held four thousand barrels of beer. The royal party were offered some of Whitbread’s entire.

The King drank and responded to toasts. Thus, at a dinner of The Knights, we read that towards the end of the first course, a large gilt cup was brought to the Sovereign by the cupbearer. The King drank to the knights, who, being at his Majesty’s command, informed of the same by Garter, stood up uncovered, pledged the King, and then sat down.

At the jubilee, the commemoration of the fiftieth year of the King’s reign, the mayor at the banquet gave ‘The King, God bless him, and long may he reign over a free and united people,’ which was drunk with three[Pg 315] times three.

The general habits of the time formed a striking contrast to the personal example of the King. In the recently issued elaborate Life of George IV., by Percy Fitzgerald, we get a picture into the social manners and customs prevailing about 1787:—

‘How the men of business and the great orators of the House of Commons contrive to reconcile it with their exertions I cannot conceive,’ writes that most charming of public men, Sir Gilbert Elliot, to his wife. ‘Men of all ages drink abominably. Fox (a Prime Minister) drinks what I should call a great deal, though he is not reckoned to do so by his companions; Sheridan (M.P. and dramatist, and withal the bosom friend of the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV.) excessively; and Grey (Viscount Howick) more than any of them. But it is in a much more gentlemanly way than our Scotch drunkards, and is always accompanied with lively clever conversation on subjects of importance. Pitt (a Prime Minister), I am told, drinks as much as anybody.’

The same observer, Sir Gilbert Elliot (1787), describes a scene at W. Crewe’s, where three young men of fashion, Mr. Orlando Bridgman, Mr. Charles Greville, of the Picnic Club, and Mr. Gifford were so drunk, ‘as to puzzle the whole assembly.’ The last was a young gentleman lately come out, of a good estate of about five thousand pounds a year, the whole of which he is in the act of spending in one or two years at least (125,000l.), and this without a grain of sense, without any fun to himself or entertainment to others. He never uttered a word, though as drunk as the other two, who were both riotous, and began at last to talk so plain, that Lady Francis and Lady Valentine fled from the side table to ours, and Mrs. Sheridan would have followed them, but did not escape till her arms were black and blue, and her apron torn off.

Pitt, the model young minister, broke down in the house in the following year, owing to a debauch the night before at Lord Buckingham’s, when, in company with Dundas and the Duke of Gordon, he took too much wine.

[Pg 316]

Indeed, the manners and customs of the times (1780-1830) might be called a ‘precious school’ for the young princes (Prince of Wales, Dukes of York, Cumberland, and Kent), and there was no public opinion to check these vices.

The lawlessness that was abroad reached even to the young, who disdained the control of their parents.

To the same effect writes Dr. Doran:—

Any one who will take the trouble to go carefully through the columns of the ill-printed newspapers of the last century, will find that drunkenness, dissoluteness, and the sword hanging on every fool’s thigh ready to do his bidding, were the characteristics of the period. People got drunk at dinners, and then slew one another, or in some other way broke the law.

The taverns were crowded with morning drinkers. On the site occupied by the Bank of England, four inns used to stand; one of them was called The Crown. Sir John Hawkins, in his History of Musick, mentions that it was not unusual to draw a butt (120 gallons) in half-pints in the course of a single morning.

The drinking at the Universities was terrible.

Henry Gunning, M.A., Christ’s College, Cambridge (a descendant of the Bishop of Ely, who wrote the prayer for the Church Militant), had great opportunities of judging of the Cambridge of his day, for he was born 1768 in a Cambridgeshire vicarage, went up to Cambridge at an early age, was made Esquire Bedell 1789, and continued in that capacity till his death early in 1854. In his charming Reminiscences of the University, Town, and County of Cambridge, from the year 1780, he observes:—

Drunkenness was the besetting sin of the period when I came to college. I need scarcely add that many other vices followed in its train.

[Pg 317]

Again, speaking of a college friend:—

I do not remember ever to have seen him guilty of drunkenness, at that time almost universal.

Again (pp. 147-148):—

For many years during Rev. Charles Simeon’s ministry (I speak from my own personal knowledge) Trinity Church and the streets leading to it were the scenes of the most disgraceful tumults. On one occasion an undergraduate, who had been apprehended by Simeon, was compelled to read a public apology in the church. Mr. Simeon made a prefatory address: ‘We have long borne during public worship with the most indecent conduct from those whose situation in life should have made them sensible of the heinousness of such offences; we have seen persons coming into this place in a state of intoxication; we have seen them walking about the aisles, notwithstanding there are persons appointed to show them into seats; we have seen them coming in and going out without the slightest reverence or decorum; we have seen them insulting modest persons, both in and after divine service; in short, the devotions of the congregation have been disturbed by almost every species of ill conduct.’

About 1788, Gunning was for some time a tutor in Herefordshire; there he observed that immense quantities of cider were drunk:—

In years when apples were abundant, the labourers in husbandry were allowed to drink as much cider as they thought proper. It was no unusual thing for a man to put his lips to a wooden bottle containing four quarts, and not remove them until he had emptied it. I have myself witnessed this exploit; but I never ventured to mention a circumstance apparently so incredible, until I read Marshall’s History of Herefordshire, in which he relates the same fact.

George Pryme (b. 1781, obiit 1868) in his Autobiographic Recollections, 1870, fully confirms Gunning’s picture of Cambridge:—

[Pg 318]

When I first went to Cambridge [in 1799] the habit of hard drinking was almost as prevalent there as it was in country society....

‘Buzzing,’ unknown in the present day, was then universal. When the decanter came round to any one, if it was nearly emptied, the next in succession could require him to finish it; but if the quantity left exceeded the bumper, the challenger was obliged to drink the remainder and also a bumper out of the next fresh bottle. There was throughout these parties an endeavour to make each other drunk, and a pride in being able to resist the effects of the wine.

This Pryme was a person of distinction; sometime Fellow of Trinity, first Professor of Political Economy in Cambridge University, and thrice M.P. for the Borough. Moreover he was no teetotaller; though a moderate man, he had full belief in the medicinal virtue of brandy. And he had reason; for he says:—

In the winter of 1788-9 I was attacked by a severe fever, and was attended by Dr. Storer of Nottingham, the most eminent physician in that part of the country. After prescribing every medicine that he could think of as suitable to the case, he called one evening on my mother but declined seeing me, as he said everything had been tried, and that giving more medicine was only harassing me in vain. He however asked a few questions about me, and was told that I had repeatedly begged for brandy. He mixed some in a wine-glass with water, which I eagerly drank and asked for more; he then mixed a second glass. The next forenoon he called to inquire if I was still alive, and was told that I had had a good night and was much better. He saw me, and from that time I steadily recovered.

The habits of a University are very fair tests of the habits of the more affluent, and upper middle classes of the nation. Outside this for the most part is the great class generally known as tradesmen. Probably nothing has contributed so much to the deterioration of this class, as the almost invariable habit of spending the[Pg 319] evening in some hotel or tavern. It is still common in Germany. It is much to be hoped that it is dying out in England. Charles Knight, in his Passages of a Working Life, seems to speak of it as universally the case early in the present century. He speaks of the tradesmen as habitually

Sallying forth to spend their long evenings in their accustomed chairs at the ale-house, which had become their second home. Some had a notion that they secured custom to the shop by a constant round among the numerous hostelries. I knew a most worthy man, occupying a large house which his forefathers had occupied from the time of Queen Anne, who, when he gave up the business to his son, who, recently married, preferred his own fireside, told the innovator that he would infallibly be ruined if he did not go out to make friends over his evening glass.

But does not every grade in society sensibly or insensibly take its cue from that immediately above it? And what were those who should have set a virtuous example doing? How much have such men to answer for, as Byron, Porson, Pitt, Fox, Sheridan, Smart, Lamb, and Churchill!

Of the first named, it has been observed that when he was not impairing a naturally delicate constitution with drastic medicines and protracted fasts, he would sometimes eat and drink excessively. And this was especially the case in fits of mortification. Everyone will remember the circumstance of the Edinburgh Review proscribing Byron’s early production, Hours of Idleness. Though he affected indifference, and spoke of the critique as a paper bullet of the brain, yet he afterwards acknowledged that he tried to drown his irritation on the day he read it with three bottles of claret after dinner. His excesses of all kinds, in his continental life, are matters of history. They are usually considered to have contributed to terminate his fever fatally. This recalls his[Pg 320] clever lines:—

On a Carrier who died of Drunkenness.

John Adams lies here, of the parish of Southwell:
A carrier who carried his can to his mouth well;
He carried so much, and he carried so fast,
He could carry no more, so was carried at last;
For the liquor he drank being too much for one,
He could not carry off, so he’s now carrion.

Charles Churchill, the author of the Rosciad, was a sad drunkard. The caricature drawn of him by Hogarth will be remembered. A number of them had met as usual at their whist club in the Bedford Arms parlour. There it was that Churchill insulted Hogarth, called him a ‘very shallow fellow,’ and afterwards in writing derided the man, his productions, and his belongings. Hogarth revenged the sneer. He converted an old copper-plate into a palimpsest, on which he drew a caricature of Churchill as a growling bear with the ragged canonicals of a parson (for such the poet had been), a pot of porter by his side, and a ragged staff in his paw, each knot inscribed ‘lye.’

Theodore Hook was a highly convivial man. In a memoir of this once popular man, it is stated that the disorder under which he long laboured arose from a diseased state of the liver and stomach, brought on partly by anxiety, but chiefly, it is to be feared, by that habit of over indulgence at table, the curse of colonial life. (At the instance of the Prince Regent he had obtained a Government appointment in the Mauritius.)

A stanza of his own composition reveals in brief the man:—

[Pg 321]

Then now I’m resolved at all sorrows to blink—
Since winking’s the tippy I’ll tip ‘em the wink,
I’ll never get drunk when I cannot get drink,
Nor ever let misery bore me.
I sneer at the Fates, and I laugh at their spite,
I sit down contented to sit up all night,
And when my time comes, from the world take my flight,
For—my father did so before me.[226]

The name of Charles Lamb will naturally suggest itself. Of him one would fain observe silence in this connection. He must at any rate speak for himself: ‘A small eater but not drinker.’ He acknowledges a partiality for the production of the juniper. This would probably prepossess Hazlitt, who observes in his Thoughts and Maxims: ‘We like a convivial character better than an abstemious one, because the idea of conviviality in the first instance is pleasanter than that of sobriety.’ Lamb considered it a great qualification in his father that he made punch better than any man of his degree in England. C. Lamb was a schoolfellow of S. T. Coleridge, and something more—a friend, not of a day, but of a life. Severed during the University career of the Lake poet, the friendship was maintained by occasional visits of the latter to town, where at the Salutation and Cat, they supped, heard the midnight chimes, and possibly heard the clock strike one several times, in the little smoky room now historical. More than twenty years passed, and Lamb is found dedicating his works, then first collected, to the same old friend. Meantime, countless letters pass between them; on Lamb’s part the lower side of the convivial blending too freely with the literary. Does he anticipate a visit to his friend? The joy is infinitely heightened by the prospect of the tavern and the ‘egg-hot.’ Nor does he blush to confess ‘I am writing at random, and half tipsy.’

[Pg 322]

In his The Old Familiar Faces, he writes:—

I have been laughing, I have been carousing,
Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom-cronies,
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

Reference need not be made to that terribly tragical dissertation in his incomparable Essays of Elia, entitled The Confessions of a Drunkard. The passage which begins: ‘The waters have gone over me, but out of the dark depths could I be heard, I would cry out to all those who have set foot on that perilous flood,’ is familiar to most lovers of literature. But whether the dismal language is the mirror of his own experience, may remain a moot point. However, facts contradict the assertion of Barry Cornwall, that ‘much injustice has been done to Lamb, by accusing him of excess in drinking,’ and Hazlitt was perfectly justified in unequivocally stating what he had taken scrupulous pains to verify. Thus much admitted, we may endorse the sentiment expressed so feelingly:—

We admire his genius; we love the kind nature which appears in all his writings; and we cherish his memory as much as if we had known him personally.[227]

From the social man of letters, we turn to one who moved in a far wider circle; who, in Byron’s opinion, wrote the best comedy, the best opera, the best farce, the best address, and delivered the very best oration ever conceived or heard in this country—Richard Brinsley Sheridan. He, like Lamb, can be judged out of his own mouth. It was he who with piquant humour declared that he could drink with advantage any given quantity of wine. Wine, says his biographer, Tom Moore, was one [Pg 323]of his favourite helps to inspiration: ‘If the thought (he would say) is slow to come, a glass of good wine encourages it, and when it does come, a glass of good wine rewards it.’ To the same effect, Leigh Hunt remarks: ‘His table songs are always admirable. When he was drinking wine he was thoroughly in earnest.’ Lady Holland, at whose house Sheridan was a constant guest, told Moore that he used to take a bottle of wine and a book up to bed with him always; the former alone intended for use. He took spirits with his morning tea or coffee, and on his way from Holland House to town, invariably stopped at the old roadside inn, the Adam and Eve, where he ran up a long bill which Lord Holland was left the privilege of paying.

In the very amusing and instructive Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, speaking of Sheridan’s prosperity, the author urges:—

Many of the follies and extravagances that marked the life of this gifted but reckless personage must be attributed to the times in which he existed. Drinking was the fashion of the day. The Prince [Regent], Mr. Pitt, Dundas, the Lord Chancellor Eldon, and many others who gave the tone to society, would, if they now appeared at an evening party, ‘as was their custom of an afternoon,’ be pronounced fit for nothing but bed. A three-bottle man was not an unusual guest at a fashionable table; and the night was invariably spent in drinking bad port wine to an enormous extent.

The same writer observes:—

Drinking and play were more universally indulged in then [about 1814] than at the present time, and many men still living must remember the couple of bottles of port at least which accomp[Pg 324]anied his dinner in those days.... The dinner-party, commencing at seven or eight, frequently did not break up before one in the morning. There were then four and even five-bottle men; and the only thing that saved them was drinking very slowly, and out of very small glasses. The learned head of the law, Lord Eldon, and his brother Lord Stowell, used to say that they had drunk more bad port than any two men in England; indeed, the former was rather apt to be overtaken, and to speak occasionally somewhat thicker than natural after long and heavy potations. The late Lords Panmure, Dufferin, and Blayney, wonderful to relate, were six-bottle men at this time; and I really think that if the good society of 1815 could appear before their more moderate descendants, in the state they were generally reduced to after dinner, the moderns would pronounce their ancestors fit for nothing but bed.

Sheridan’s success in life, as well as his attachment to party, was mainly owing to his connection with one of whom we shall next speak, viz. Charles James Fox. A few months after his first appointment to office, Walpole went to the House to hear the young orator, and he tells us—

Fox’s abilities are amazing at so very early a period, especially under the circumstances of such a dissolute life. He was just arrived from Newmarket, had sat up drinking all night, and had not been in bed.

More than once is he said to have taken his place in the House of Commons in a state of absolute intoxication.

Mr. George Otto Trevelyan, M.P., gives in his Early History of Charles James Fox a very bad picture of the drinking habits of great men in England at that period.

These were the days when the Duke of Grafton, the Premier, lived openly with Miss Nancy Parsons. Rigby, the Paymaster of the Forces, had only one merit, that he drank fair. He used brandy as the rest of the world used small beer. Lord Weymouth, grandson of Lord Cartaret, had more than his grandfather’s capacity for liquor, and a fair portion of his abilities. He co[Pg 325]nstantly boozed till daylight, even when a Secretary of State. His occasional speeches were extolled by his admirers as preternaturally sagacious, and his severest critics admitted them to be pithy. Walpole made the following smart hit at him: ‘If I paid nobody, and went drunk to bed every morning at six, I might expect to be called out of bed by two in the afternoon to save the nation, and govern the House of Lords by two or three sentences as profound and short as the proverbs of Solomon.’ ‘They tell me, Sir John,’ said George the Third to one of his favourites, ‘that you love a glass of wine.’ ‘Those who have so informed your Majesty,’ was the reply, ‘have done me great injustice; they should have said a bottle.’ ‘Two of the friends of Philip Francis, without any sense of having performed an exceptional feat, finished between them a gallon and a half of Champagne and Burgundy, a debauch which in this unheroic age it almost makes one ill to read of.’

The sobriety of Pitt has been the subject of much debate. Mr. Jeaffreson has well said that free livers delight to attribute their own failings to great people who are free from them. Till Lord Stanhope relieved Pitt’s fame of groundless aspersions of intemperance, it suffered from drunken epigrams, and the idle tales of pot-loving detractors. Of the former, the following is a specimen:—

On folly every fool his talent tries;
It needs some toil to imitate the wise;
Though few like Fox can speak—like Pitt can think,
Yet all like Fox can game—like Pitt can drink.

Perhaps no form of detraction is so insidious as caricature, and Pitt was its sport. The pencil of Gillray was busy in 1788 with a caricature entitled, Market Day—Every Man has His Price. The Ministerial supporters are represented as horned cattle exposed for sale. The scene is laid in Smithfield. At the window of a public-house adjoining appear Pitt and Dundas, a jovial pair drinking and smoking.

Again, when the dearth of 1795 was just beginning, a print by the same Gillray represents a convivi[Pg 326]al scene at Pitt’s country house. It is entitled, ‘God save the King! in a bumper; or, an Evening Scene three times a Week at Wimbleton.’ Pitt is trying to fill his glass from the wrong end of the bottle, while his companion, grasping pipe and bumper, ejaculates the words, ‘Billy, my boy—all my joy!’

Still there is an element of truth underlying both epigram and burlesque; but, having admitted this, we may assert that his wont formed a contrast to the wild habits of many of his contemporaries, and that with justice he was favourably compared by the Court with the irregularities of Fox and his associates.

Professor Richard Porson was at one time a prominent figure in the Cider Cellars in Covent Garden. It was his nightly haunt. It was there that one of his companions is said to have shouted in his presence, ‘Dick can beat us all; he can drink all night and spout all day.’ This sounds bad, but it must be remembered that Porson had struggled long on the then miserable pittance attached to the Greek Professorship at Cambridge, 40l. a year, and had suddenly obtained the post of head librarian of the London Institution, with a salary increased five-fold. He thus had facilities for indulgence, and with them, possibly for a time, the appetite. An habitual drunkard he was not. Like Johnson, he could practise abstinence more easily than temperance. He lived in days when the leading statesmen and politicians were not ashamed of being seen under the influence of wine, and though Porson has been vilified for his occasional intemperance, it may, without much hesitation, be affirmed that it was his reforming principles in Church and State that brought much of the obloquy upon him.

[Pg 327]

Thomson, the author of the Seasons, was a convivial man.

Mrs. Hobart, Thomson’s housekeeper, often wished Quin dead, he made her master drink so. He and Quin used to come sometimes from the Castle together at four o’clock in a morning, and not over sober you may be sure. When he was writing in his own house he frequently sat with a bowl of punch before him, and that a good large one too.

The following anecdote is told of him:—

Mr. H. of Bangor said he was once asked to dinner by Thomson, but could not attend. One of his friends who was there told him that there was a general stipulation agreed on by the whole company, that there should be no hard drinking. Thomson acquiesced, only requiring that each man should drink his bottle. The terms were accepted unconditionally, and when the cloth was removed a three-quart bottle was set before each of his guests. Thomson had much of this kind of agreeable humour.

His Autumn came out in 1730, in which occur the lines:—

But first the fuel’d chimney blazes wide;
The tankards foam; and the strong table groans
Beneath the smoking sirloin, stretch’d immense
From side to side; in which with desperate knife
The deep incision make, and talk the while
Of England’s glory, ne’er to be defaced
While hence they borrow vigour; or amain
Into the pasty plunged at intervals,
If stomach keen can intervals allow,
Relating all the glories of the chace.
Then sated Hunger bids his brother Thirst
Produce the mighty bowl; the mighty bowl,
Swell’d high with fiery juice, steams liberal round
A potent gale, delicious as the breath
Of Mäia to the love-sick shepherdess
On violets diffus’d, while soft she hears
[Pg 328]Her panting shepherd stealing to her arms.
Nor wanting is the brown October, drawn
Mature and perfect from his dark retreat
Of thirty years; and now his honest front
Flames in the light refulgent, not afraid
Even with the vineyard’s best produce to vie.
    *    *    *    *
At last these puling idlenesses laid
Aside, frequent and full the dry divan
Close in firm circle; and set ardent in
For serious drinking. Nor evasion sly,
Nor sober shift, is to the puking wretch
Indulg’d apart; but earnest brimming bowls
Lave every soul, the table floating round,
And pavement, faithless to the fuddled foot.
    *    *    *    *
Before their maudlin eyes
Seen dim and blue the double tapers dance,
Like the sun wading through the misty sky.
Then sliding soft, they drop. Confus’d above
Glasses and bottles, pipes and gazeteers,
As if the table even itself was drunk,
Lie a wet broken scene; and wide below
Is heap’d the social slaughter: where astride
The lubber Power in filthy triumph sits
Slumbrous, inclining still from side to side,
And steeps them drench’d in potent sleep till morn.
Perhaps some doctor, of tremendous paunch
Awful and deep, a black abyss of drink,
Outlives them all; and from his buried flock
Retiring, full of rumination sad,
Laments the weakness of these latter times.

In Autumn, somewhat later, he sings the praises of cider:—

The piercing cider for the thirsty tongue;
Thy native theme and boon inspirer too,
Phillips, Pomona’s bard, the second thou
Who nobly durst in rhyme-unfetter’d verse
[Pg 329]With British freedom sing the British song;
How from Silurian vats high-sparkling wines
Foam in transparent floods; some strong to cheer
The wintry revels of the labouring hind;
And tasteful some to cool the summer hours.

Again, we read a few lines later of the autumnal vintage:—

Round the raised nations pours the cup of joy:
The claret smooth, red as the lip we press
In sparkling fancy while we drain the bowl;
The mellow-tasted Burgundy; and quick
As is the wit it gives the gay champagne.

Wordsworth says of the Seasons:—‘Much of it is written from himself.’ Probably this is true.

In 1798 was published a collection of the dramatic works of John O’Keefe. In the following lines from his Poor Soldier occurs a phrase which has become household:—

Dear Tom, this brown jug that now foams with mild ale,
From which I now drink to sweet Nan of the Vale,
Was once Toby Filpot’s, a thirsty old soul
As e’er cracked a bottle or fathomed a bowl.

The allusion is simply to drunken frolics, during which glass was broken. Mr. Oldbuck says in the Antiquary:—‘We never were glass-breakers in this house.’

In 1805 Robert Bloomfield published his rural poem, the Farmer’s Boy. It is a very humorous and suggestive account of the manners of clod-hopping England as engaged about the Harvest-home supper in Suffolk and Norfolk, here entitled the Horkey. This has been already discussed. Suffice it to add that Bloomfield’s charming little provincial ballad, entitled, The Horkey, has been recently published by Macmillan, and is abundantly illustrated.

But of all the marvellous issues from the press at the beginning of the present century, nothing could be[Pg 330] more monstrous than the publication of a work entitled ‘Ebrietatis Encomium; or, the Praise of Drunkenness, wherein is authentically and most evidently proved the Necessity of Frequently Getting Drunk; and the Practise is most ancient, primitive, and Catholick.’

The author, not unnaturally, thinks that some apology is needed in his preface. He declares that he did not undertake the work on account of any zeal he had for wine, but only to divert himself(!), and not to lose a great many curious remarks he had made upon this most Catholic liquid.

Verily, ‘nulli vitio unquam defuit advocatus.’ He seems to have hunted up bon-mots, or rather mal-mots from every toping author that was to hand, e.g. he cites Seneca (De Tranquillitate):—‘As drunkenness causes some distempers, so it is a sovereign remedy for our sorrows.’ Propertius—‘Alas! so then wine lives longer than man, let us then sit down and drink bumpers; life and wine are the same thing.’ Horace—‘That nectar which the blessed vines produce, the height of all our joy and wishes here.’ La Motte:—

A l’envi laissons nous saisir,
Aux transports d’une douce ivresse:
Qu’importe si c’est un plaisir,
Que ce soit folie ou sagesse.

These are specimens of the sources from which the author, ‘Boniface Oinophilus’ drew.[228]

But we travel to far other soil.

The poet Cowper [b. 1781, d. 1800], the intellectual ancestor of Wordsworth, has several pictures of his times in his writings.

[Pg 331]

With a lofty and noble morality does he describe the truly gay:—

Whom call we gay? That honour has been long
The boast of mere pretenders to the name.
The innocent are gay—the lark is gay,
That dries his feathers saturate with dew
Beneath the rosy cloud, while yet the beams
Of dayspring overshoot his humble nest.
The peasant too, a witness of his song,
Himself a songster, is as gay as he.
But save me from the gaiety of those
Whose headaches nail them to a noon-day bed;
And save me too from theirs whose haggard eyes
Flash desperation, and betray their pangs
For property stripp’d off by cruel chance;
From gaiety that fills the bones with pain,
The mouth with blasphemy, the heart with woe.
The Task, Book I., ‘The Sofa.’

Noble lines these, breathing much of the spirit of Horace’s noble ethics:—

Non possidentem multa vocaveris
Recte beatum. Rectius occupat
Nomen beati qui deorum
Muneribus sapienter uti,
Calletque duram pauperiem pati,
Pejusque leto flagitium timet.
Non ille pro caris amicis,
Non patriâ timidus perire.

There was not perhaps much need for our poet to dread the gout:—

[Pg 332]Oh may I live exempted (while I live
Guiltless of pamper’d appetite obscene),
From pangs arthritic, that infest the toe
Of libertine Excess!
The Task, Book I., ‘The Sofa.’

Certainly not if the following picture was his usual evening condition:—

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
The Task, Book IV., ‘The Winter Evening.’

Commenting upon the usual misquotation of this passage, which provincial newspapers make a point of rendering:—‘The cup that cheers’ &c., Cuthbert Bede adds:—

The poet of ‘The Task’ spoke of ‘cups;’ and, it is very evident, from the graphic description of the accompanying urn, that those cups were intended to hold a certain beverage that had been introduced into England about 130 years before ‘The Task’ was written, and which, by those who could afford to purchase it at the high price then demanded for it, was known as ‘Tea.’ It might be urged, with more ingenuity than plausibility, that, as Cowper does not mention the contents of the cups, they, together with the hot water in the loud-hissing urn, might have been used for some of those compounds, familiarly known as ‘Cups.’ Thus, there were ‘cups’ of spiced wine, Claret, Burgundy, Gilliflower sack, Hydromel (which was recommended by Lord Holles to those who abjured wine, and was composed of honey, spring-water, and ginger), Cider, and many kinds of ale and Beer-cups, distinguished by such extraordinary names as Humpty-dumpty, Clamber-clown, Old Pharaoh, Hugmatee, Stitchback, Cock-ale, Three-threads, Mum, and Knock-me-down, which last name is particularly suggestive of the probable result of the toper’s indulgence in a brew of hot ale-cup, in which gin was a leading ingredient.

It is very evident that it could only be a person who was very[Pg 333] hard-up for an argument, who could think of framing such an accusation against the abstemious and gentle William Cowper, and who could interpret his ‘cups’ in any other sense than as cups for tea. In fact, the whole passage presents to us a tea-table scene; and, as we read it, we can see the comfortable parlour at Olney, the curtains closely drawn—in that respect very sensibly differing from

‘The half-uncurtain’d window,’

mentioned in the winter-evening’s scene, in Campbell’s ‘Pleasures of Hope’—with the bubbling urn, containing, possibly, the tea already made, or else ready to contribute its boiling stream to the tea-pot.

But this sort of evening was not the usual evening in England in 1785. Much more frequently was the evening spent in what our poet himself calls ‘the quenchless thirst of ruinous ebriety,’ and describes in the following lines (Task, lib. iv.):—

Pass where we may, through city or through town,
Village or hamlet of this merry land,
Though lean and beggar’d, every twentieth pace
Conducts the unguarded nose to such a whiff
Of stale debauch, forth issuing from the styes
That Law has licensed, as makes Temperance reel.
There sit, involved and lost in curling clouds
Of Indian fume, and guzzling deep, the boor,
The lackey, and the groom: the craftsman there
Takes a Lethean leave of all his toil;
Smith, cobbler, joiner, he that plies the shears,
And he that kneads the dough; all aloud alike,
All learned, and all drunk! the fiddle screams
Plaintive and piteous, as it wept and wail’d
Its wasted tones and harmony unheard.
    *    *    *    *
‘Tis here they learn
The road that leads from competence and peace
To indigence and rapine; till at last
Society, grown weary of the load,
[Pg 334]Shakes her encumber’d lap, and casts them out.
But censure profits little: vain the attempt
To advertise in verse a public pest
That, like the filth with which the peasant feeds
His hungry acres, stinks and is of use.
The excise is fatten’d with the rich result
Of all this riot: and ten thousand casks
For ever dribbling out their base contents,
Touch’d by the Midas finger of the State,
Bleed gold for ministers to sport away.
Drink and be mad then; ‘tis your country bids!
Gloriously drunk obey the important call!
Her cause demands the assistance of your throats
Ye all can swallow, and she asks no more.

Towards the end of the progress of error is the sage advice:—

With caution taste the sweet Circæan cup;
He that sips often at last drinks it up.
Habits are soon assumed, but when we strive
To strip them off ‘tis being flayed alive.
Call’d to the temple of impure delight
He that abstains, and he alone, does right.

Finally, an admirable moral is contained in the lines:—

Pleasure admitted in undue degree
Enslaves the will, nor leaves the judgment free.
‘Tis not alone the grape’s enticing juice
Unnerves the moral powers, and mars their use;
Ambition, avarice, and the lust of fame,
And woman, lovely woman, does the same.

Wordsworth was a most abstemious man. He and his wife drank water, and ate the simplest fare. When Scott stayed with him at Rydal Mount, he had to hie him to the nearest public-house not unfrequently.

Myers has observed, in his monograph on the poet in English Men of Letters:—

The poet of the Waggoner—who, himself an habitual water-drinker, has so glowingly described the glorification which the prospect of nature receives in a half-intoxicated bra[Pg 335]in—may justly claim that he can enter into all genuine pleasures, even of an order which he declines for himself. With anything that is false or artificial he cannot sympathise, nor with such faults as baseness, cruelty, rancour, which seem contrary to human nature itself; but in dealing with faults of mere weakness he is far less strait-laced than many less virtuous men.

His comment on Burns’ Tam o’ Shanter will perhaps surprise some readers who are accustomed to think of him only in his didactic attitude.

Wordsworth’s Criticism.

... Who, but some impenetrable dunce or narrow-minded puritan in works of art, ever read without delight the picture which Burns has drawn of the convivial exaltation of the rustic adventurer Tam o’ Shanter? The poet fears not to tell the reader in the outset that his hero was a desperate and sottish drunkard, whose excesses were as frequent as his opportunities. This reprobate sits down to his cups while the storm is roaring, and heaven and earth are in confusion; the night is driven on by song and tumultuous noise, laughter and jest thicken as the beverage improves upon the palate—conjugal fidelity archly bends to the service of general benevolence—selfishness is not absent, but wearing the mask of social cordiality; and while these various elements of humanity are blended into one proud and happy composition of elated spirits, the anger of the tempest without doors only heightens and sets off the enjoyment within. I pity him who cannot perceive that in all this, though there was no moral purpose, there is a moral effect.

‘Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,
O’er a’ the ills of life victorious.’

What a lesson do these words convey of charitable indulgence for the vicious habits of the principal actor in the scene, and of those who resemble him! Men who to the rigidly virtuous are objects almost of loathing, and whom therefore they cannot serve! The poet, penetrating the unsightly and disgusting surfaces of things, has unveiled with exquisite skill the finer ties of imagination and feeling that often bind these beings to practices productive of so much unhappiness to themselves, and to those whom it is their duty to cherish; and, as far as he puts the reader into possession of this intelligent sympathy, he qualifies him for exercising a salutary influence over the minds of those who are thus deplorably enslaved.

The poet Southey’s opinion of the ale-house, versus th[Pg 336]e home, is as true of our own times as his own:—

For the labouring man the ale-house is too often a place of unmingled evil; where, while he is single, he squanders the money which ought to be laid up as a provision for marriage or old age; and where, if he frequent it after he is married, he commits the far heavier sin of spending, for his own selfish gratification, the earnings upon which the woman and children whom he has rendered dependent upon him have the strongest of all claims.

Of the drink itself he writes:—

But Thalaba took not the draught,
For right he knew the Prophet had forbidden
That beverage, the mother of sins;
Nor did the urgent guests
Proffer the second time the liquid fire,
For in the youth’s strong eye they saw
No movable resolve.

William Playfair, the famous political economist, wrote in 1805 his Enquiry into the Permanent Causes of the Decline and Fall of Powerful and Wealthy Nations. He has some striking remarks upon the bearing of revenue upon the drink traffic:—

When a nation becomes the slave of its revenue, and sacrifices everything to that object, abuses that favour revenue are difficult to reform; but surely it would be well to take some mode to prevent the facility with which people get drunk, and the temptation that is laid to do so. The immense number of public-houses, and the way in which they give credit, are undoubtedly, in part, causes of this evil. It would be easy to lessen the number, without hurting liberty, and it would be no injustice if publicans were prevented from legal recovery for beer or spirits consumed in their houses, in the same manner that payment cannot be enforced of any person under twenty-one years of age, unless for necessaries. There could be no hardship in this, and it would produce a great reform in the manners of the lower orders. There are only three modes of teaching youth the way to well-doing—by precept, by example, and by habit at an early age. Precept, without example and habit, has but little weight, yet how can a child have either of these, if the parents are encouraged and assisted in living a vicious[Pg 337] life? Nations and individuals should guard against those vices to which they find they have a natural disposition; and drinking and gluttony are the vices to which the common people in this country are the most addicted.

We now pass to some of the political action of the reign. In 1768, Sir Francis Dashwood, Chancellor of the Exchequer, proposed a new tax on cider and perry, amounting to ten shillings on the hogshead. Earl Stanhope states that the outcry was so vehement that a modification of the scheme was all that was granted, and four shillings were to be paid by the grower. In the Upper House the Bill was also strongly opposed, but the Ministry carried the point. Bute incurred much odium. People compared the rash disregard of popular opinion with which this measure was pushed through with the conduct of Sir Robert Walpole, who had bowed to the public demonstrations against his system of excise; and when Bute’s resignation was announced many ascribed his retreat to the alarm raised by the popular indignation. A caricature entitled, The Roasted Exciseman; or, the Jack Boot’s exit, represents the enraged mob burning the effigy of a Scotchman suspended on a gallows; a great worn boot lies on the bonfire, into which a man is throwing an excised cider barrel as fuel.

The City of London presented a petition against the tax at the bar of the House of Commons, but to no effect; and in the cider counties it was found hard indeed to enforce the duties imposed.

One of many lachrymations was Benjamin Heath’s The Case of the County of Devon, 1763. An address to honest English hearts, being an honest countryman’s reflections on [Pg 338]the cider tax, 1763. Some plain reasons for the repeal of the cider tax, dedicated to every man who pays taxes, and particularly to the Honourable G—— J——, M.P. for Norfolk, &c., 1763. An address to the electors, such as are not makers of cider and perry, 1787.

The tax on beer, too, early in the reign, had greatly exasperated the mob. The Royal Magazine tells that while their Majesties were at Drury Lane Theatre, to see the Winter’s Tale, as Garrick was repeating the lines:—

‘For you, my hearts of oak, for your regale,
Here’s good old English stingo, mild and stale,’

a fellow cried out of the gallery: ‘At threepence a pot, Master Garrick, or confusion to the brewers!’

Imposts on malt were continually brought forward. The brewers as well as their clients were wild. Mr. Whitbread inveighed on one occasion against the Ministers for laying a war tax upon malt. Sheridan, who was present, could not resist a shy at the brewer. He wrote on a paper the following lines, and handed them to Mr. Whitbread across the table:—

They’ve raised the price of table drink;
What is the reason, do you think?
The tax on malt’s the cause I hear—
But what has malt to do with beer?

In 1791, the House of Commons was again induced to consider the question, and a committee came to the resolution: ‘That the number of persons empowered to retail spirits should be greatly diminished,’ &c. Certain Acts were passed, encouraging the rival trade of the brewers. Grocers were prohibited from selling drams in their shops, &c. The Speaker of the House, in his speech at the bar of the Lords, March, 1795, and in an address delivered on presenting the Bills of Supply, which received the unanimous thanks of the Lower House, thus referred to the excellent result of[Pg 339] even these small measures, and at the same time enunciated a pregnant political truth. After alluding to the increased prosperity and resources of the country, and to some measures for decreasing the sale of spirits, he observes: ‘Satisfied, however, that those resources and that prosperity cannot be permanent without an effectual attention to the sobriety of the people, their morals and peaceable subordination to the laws, they have, by an arrangement of duties which promises also an increase of revenue, relieved the brewing [trade] from all restriction of taxes, so as to give it a decided advantage over the distilling, and thereby discourage the too frequent and immoderate use of spirituous liquors, a measure which must conduce to sobriety, tranquillity, and content, and under which the people, encouraged in regular industry, and the consequent acquisition of wealth, must feel the blessings,’ &c., of good government.

Under the dark days that followed, from 1795 to 1800—days of rebellion at home and revolution abroad—this subject was lost sight of, unhappily for the interests of all. The Acts which had initiated so much good, were allowed to expire, discouragement to the use of spirits ceased, grocers were again allowed to dispense the drug to women and families, and debauchery rioted and revelled as before.[229]

In 1796, among the next taxes introduced, was an additional duty of twenty pounds per butt on wine. Discontent ensued. Pitt’s alleged propensity furnished the material for satire. Gillray represented him under the character of Bacchus, and his friend Dundas under that of Silenus, in a caricature entitled The Wine Duty, or the Triumph of Bacchus and Silenus. John Bull, with[Pg 340] empty bottle and empty purse, and with long face, addresses his remonstrance: ‘Pray, Mr. Bacchus, have a bit of consideration for old John; you know as how I’ve emptied my purse already for you, and it’s woundedly hard to raise the price of a drop of comfort, now that one’s got no money left for to pay for it!’

Among the taxes of 1799 was one upon beer, which would have the effect of raising the price of porter to fourpence the pot, and which would most affect the working classes. The Tory satirists pretended to sympathise most with the Whig Dr. Parr, a great porter drinker. Gillray published a sketch of the supposed Effusions of a Pot of Porter, or ‘ministerial conjurations for supporting the war, as lately discovered by Dr. P——r, in the froth and fumes of his favourite beverage.’ A pot of four-penny is placed on a stool, from the froth of which arises Pitt, mounted on the white horse, brandishing a flaming sword. The Doctor’s reverie is a satire on the innumerable mischiefs which popular clamour laid to the charge of the Minister:—

Fourpence a pot for porter! Mercy upon us! Ah! it’s all owing to the war, &c. Have not they ruined the harvest? Have not they blighted all the hops?

Wine was manufactured in England at this period. Sir Richard Worsley tried the experiment of an English vineyard. He planted the most hardy species of vine in a rocky soil at St. Lawrence, Isle of Wight, and engaged a French vine-dresser. He achieved a success, but only temporary. He abandoned the project. A certain Mr. Hamilton attempted the same at Painshill, on a soil of gravelly sand. His first attempt at red wine failed. He then turned his attention to white wine, in which he tells [Pg 341]Sir E. Barry, the experiment surpassed his most sanguine expectations. Many good judges thought it better than any champagne they had ever drunk. Such an experience was certainly exceptional.

Faulkner (Antiquities of Kensington) quotes the following memorandum from the MS. notes of Peter Collinson:—

October 18, 1765.—I went to see Mr. Roger’s vineyards at Parson’s Green [at Fulham], all of Burgundy grapes, and seemingly all perfectly ripe; I did not see a green, half-ripe grape in all this quantity. He does not expect to make less than fourteen hogsheads of wine. The branches and fruit are remarkably large, and the wine very strong.

George IV. was born in 1770, and came to the throne in 1820. Intemperance, amidst other vices, was a feature of his moral career. The surroundings of his birth augured ill. Mrs. Draper, who attended the Queen with her two first children, was dismissed from her duties in consequence of her habitual inebriety. His proclivity very nearly cost him dear while yet a youth. At a dinner party at Lord Chesterfield’s house at Blackheath, the whole company drank to excess, and betook themselves to riotous frolic. One of the party let loose a big fierce dog, which at once flew at one of the footmen, tore one of his arms terribly, and nearly strangled a horse. The whole party now formed themselves into a compact body and assailed Towzer, who resolutely defended himself, and had just caught hold of the skirts of the coat of his Royal Highness, when one of the party by a blow on the head felled the dog to the ground. In the confusion, however, the Earl of Chesterfield fell down the steps leading to his house, and severely injured the back of his head. The Prince, who scarcely knew whether he had been fighting a dog or a man, jumped into his phaeton, and there fell[Pg 342] asleep, leaving the reins to his uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, who took him safely to town.[230]

The Prince was a member of the Catch and Glee Club at the Thatched House Tavern. He is (says Huish) the reputed author of the second verse to the glee of the Happy Fellow, ‘I’ll ne’er,’ &c.; and of the additional verse to the song, ‘By the gaily circling glass,’ which he used to sing in his convivial moments with great effect. Nothing more distinctly points to the ineradicable nature of his diseased habit, than his conduct upon the arrival of his bride-elect—Caroline of Brunswick. Lord Malmesbury, the sole witness, tells the story:—

I ... introduced the Princess Caroline to him. She very properly attempted to kneel to him. He raised her (gracefully enough) and embraced her, said barely one word, turned round, retired to a distant part of the apartment, and, calling me to him, said: ‘Harris, I am not well; pray get me a glass of brandy.’ I said: ‘Sir, had you not better have a glass of water?’ upon which he, much out of humour, said with an oath: ‘No; I will go directly to the Queen.’

The remark of the princess to Malmesbury, was: ‘Mon Dieu, est-ce que le Prince est toujours comme cela?’

Lord Holland has stated that at the wedding the Prince had drunk so much brandy, that he could scarcely be kept upright between two dukes. The reckless extravagance of the Prince involved him in pecuniary straights:—

Not a farthing could be raised on the responsibility of any of his immediate associates; the whole of the party were actually in a [Pg 343]state of the deepest poverty; and Major Hanger, in the history of his life, mentions a circumstance in which he, Sheridan, Fox, an illustrious individual, and a Mr. Berkeley, repaired to a celebrated tavern then known by the name of the Staffordshire Arms, where after carousing with some dashing Cyprians who were sent for on the occasion, the combined resources of the whole of the party could not defray the expenses of the evening. On this occasion, Sheridan got so intoxicated that he was put to bed, and on awakening in the morning, he found himself in the character of a hostage for the expenses of the previous night’s debauch.[231]

It must, however, be admitted, that when once upon the throne, he had the rare capability of uniting dignity with hilarity. An incident in connection with a public toast is worthy of narration. When the King visited Scotland, a banquet was given by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh in the Parliament House. The King, in returning thanks for the reception given him, said:—

I take this opportunity, my Lords and Gentlemen, of proposing the health of the Lord Provost, Sir William Arbuthnot, Baronet, and the Corporation of Edinburgh.

Thus did the King confer the baronetcy upon the president. A complication of disease terminated his reign in 1880.

The Public-house Regulation Act of 1758 was in force till 1828, when a consolidating Act was passed, with an appeal to justices in quarter sessions.

Its chief provisions are:—

1. Licences to be granted only from year to year, at a special session of magistrates; with power of applicant to appeal to the quarter sessions in case of refusal of licence: and the refusing justices not to vote there.

2. Applicants for licence to affix notice of their intention of [Pg 344]applying, on the door of the house, and of the church of the parish in which it is situated, for three prior Sundays, and serve a copy on one of the overseers and one of the peace officers.

3. In case of actual or apprehended tumult, two justices may direct the publican to close his house: disobedience to be esteemed as disorder.

4. The licence stipulates that the publican shall not adulterate his liquors, or allow drunkenness, gaming, or disorder; that he shall not suffer persons of notoriously bad character to assemble therein; and that he shall not, save to travellers, open his house during Divine Service on Sundays and holy-days.

5. Heavy and increasing penalties for repeated offences against the terms and tenor of the licence; magistrates at sessions being empowered to punish an alehouse-keeper, convicted by a jury of a third offence, by a fine of 100l., or to adjudge the licence to be forfeited.

The Distillery Act of 1825 requires notice.

By the enactment of 1825, no person can obtain a licence for conducting a distillery, unless he occupies a tenement of the value of 20l. a year, pays parish rates, and resides within a quarter of a mile of a market town containing 500 inhabited houses. Before obtaining a licence, the amount of which is 10l., he must lodge with the collector, or other officer of excise, an entry or registry of his premises, the several apartments and utensils, specifying the contents of the vessels and the purposes for which they are intended; and every such room and utensil must be properly labelled with its appropriate name and object. With the registry must be delivered a drawing, or description of the construction, use, and course of every fixed pipe in the distillery, as well as of all casks and communications therewith connected. Pipes for the conveyance of worts or wash must be painted red, those for low wines or feints, blue; those for spirits, white; for water, black. No still can be licensed of a less content than 400 gallons, nor can the distiller make spirits at the same time from different materials. The distiller must give notice of the gravity at which he intends to make his wort. These are specimens only of the conditions imposed. Before this enactment,[Pg 345] distillation was confined to a few capitalists; but, with a view of encouraging a fair competition in the trade, and inducing the people to take the spirits directly from the distillers, the Act was passed.

The drink temperature was maintained throughout all classes of society. Charles Knight gives an apt description of a Christmas in London in 1824:—

The out-door aspects of London enjoyment at Christmas were not unobserved by me. Honestly to speak, it was a dismal spectacle. In every broad thoroughfare, and in every close alley, there was drunkenness abroad; not shamefaced drunkenness, creeping in maudlin helplessness to its home by the side of the scolding wife, but rampant, insolent, outrageous drunkenness. No decent woman even in broad daylight could at the holiday seasons dare to walk alone in the Strand or Pall Mall.

The stronger spirituous liquors were all the rage; and it was under the impression that by making beer, &c., more readily accessible, there would be less demand for the fire-water, that the Beerhouse Act was passed, of which we shall soon speak. But before doing so, let us recall the names of one or two who ranged themselves on the side of temperance.

James Montgomery writes:—

Many might be profited by the resolute perusal of the ‘Confessions of an Opium Eater’ with self-application, for every habitual indulgence of appetite beyond what nature requires or will endure for the health of body or mind is a species of opium-eating. Such cordials, exhilaratives, and stimulants are generally, in the first instance, resorted to as lenitives of pain, reliefs from languor, or resources in idleness; they soon become necessary gratifications, affording little either of[Pg 346] pleasure or of pain in the use (though non-indulgence is misery) till in the sequel they grow into tyrannous excesses that exhaust the animal spirits, debilitate the mind, and consume the frame with disease which no medicine can reach. The drunkard in this sense is an opium-eater; he puts an ‘enemy into his mouth that steals away his senses,’ and the fool’s paradise, into which liquor transports him, lies on ‘the broad way that leadeth to destruction.’ The snuff taker and the tobacco smoker in this sense are opium-eaters; these luxuries, as well as eating and drinking, may be enjoyed in moderation, but where does moderation end and abuse begin? That fine line of distinction was never yet traced with assurance, and the only safety lies many a league on the right side of it. The Indian weed may be less promptly deleterious than the Asiatic, but in this country it is scarcely a question that the former destroys more victims than the latter.

Sydney Smith writes thus to Lady Holland, in 1828:—

Many thanks for your kind anxiety respecting my health. I not only was never better, but never half so well; indeed, I find I have been very ill all my life, without knowing it. Let me state some of the goods arising from abstaining from all fermented liquors. First, sweet sleep; having never known what sweet sleep was, I sleep like a baby or a plough-boy. If I wake, no needless terrors, no black visions of life, but pleasing hopes and pleasing recollections: Holland House, past and to come! If I dream, it is not of lions and tigers, but of Easter dues and tithes. Secondly, I can take longer walks, and make greater exertions, without fatigue. My understanding is improved, and I comprehend political economy, I see better without wine and spectacles than when I used both. Only one evil ensues from it: I am in such extravagant spirits that I must lose blood, or look out for some one who will bore or depress me. Pray leave off wine:—the stomach is quite at rest; no heartburn, no pain, no distention.

In 1824 Carolina Nairne, née Carolina Oliphant, became Baroness Nairne, her husband, Major Nairne, being restored to a barony granted to his family in the time of Charles I.

She appears to be the first writer of a thorough teetotal[Pg 347] song. It was entitled Haud ye frae the cogie.

There’s cauld kail in Aberdeen,
There’s custocks in Stra’bogie;
And morn and e’en they’re blythe and bein
That haud them frae the cogie.
Now haud ye frae the cogie, lads:
Oh, bide ye frae the cogie!
I’ll tell ye true, ye’ll never rue
O’ passin by the cogie.

Young Will was braw and weel put on,
Sae blythe was he and vogie;
And he got bonnie Mary Don,
The flower o’ a’ Stra’bogie.
Wha wad ha’e thocht at wooin’ time,
He’d e’er forsaken Mary,
And ta’en him to the tipplin’ trade
Wi’ boozin’ Rob and Harry?

Sair Mary wrought, sair Mary grat,
She scarce could lift the ladle;
Wi’ pithless feet, ‘tween ilka greet,
She’d rock the borrow’d cradle.
Her weddin’ plenishin’ was gane—
She never thocht to borrow;
Her bonnie face was waxin’ wan—
And Will wrought a’ the sorrow.

He’s reelin’ hame ae winter’s nicht,
Some later than the gloamin’;
He’s ta’en the rig, he’s missed the brig,
And Bogie’s o’er him foamin’.
Wi’ broken banes, out ower the stanes,
He creepit up Stra’bogie,
And a’ the nicht he prayed wi’ micht
To keep him frae the cogie.

Now Mary’s heart is light again—
She’s neither sick nor silly;
For auld or young, nae sinfu’ tongue
Could e’er entice her Willie;
[Pg 348]And aye her sang through Bogie rang—
‘O haud ye frae the cogie;
The weary gill’s the sairest ill
On braes o’ fair Stra’bogie.’

King William IV. (1830-1837) rigidly practised temperance. Indeed he zealously promoted it before his accession to the throne. One incident may serve as an illustration. On the death of the keeper of Bushy Park, the King, then Duke of Clarence, appointed the keeper’s son to succeed him. This young man broke his leg, a circumstance which elicited the practical sympathy of the Duke. After his recovery, the young man took to drinking; so the Duke, in order to cure him of the propensity, required his attendance every night at eight o’clock, and if he appeared in liquor reprimanded him the following morning. But all to no purpose. The infatuated keeper died from the effects of intemperance.

The King however was fond of giving toasts after dinner, when his prosy speeches were notorious.

The following specimen of toasts at a public banquet is taken from that given on the occasion of the opening of London Bridge.

As soon as the royal visitors had concluded their repast, the Lord Mayor rose, and said: ‘His most gracious Majesty has condescended to permit me to propose a toast. I therefore do myself the high honour to propose that we drink His Most Gracious Majesty’s Health, with four times four.’ The company rose, and, after cheering him in the most enthusiastic manner, sang the national anthem of ‘God save the King.’ His Majesty bowed to all around, and appeared to be much pleased.

Alderman Sir Claudius Hunter then rose, and said: ‘I am honoured with the permission of his Majesty to propose a toast. I therefore beg all his good subjects here assembled to rise, and to drink that ‘Health and every Blessing may attend Her Majesty the Queen.’’ Which was accordingly done, with the utmost enthusiasm.

[Pg 349]

The Lord Mayor then presented a gold cup, of great beauty, to the King, who said, taking the cup: ‘I cannot but refer, on this occasion, to the great work which has been accomplished by the citizens of London. The City of London has been renowned for its magnificent improvements, and we are now commemorating a most extraordinary instance of their skill and talent. I shall propose the source from whence this vast improvement sprung, ‘The Trade and Commerce of the City of London.’’

The King then drank what is called the ‘loving cup,’ of which every other member of the Royal Family present most cordially partook.

His Majesty next drank the health of the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, for which his lordship, in a few words, expressive of the deepest gratitude, thanked his Majesty. The chief magistrate soon after was created a Baronet.

Prominent amongst the legislative beacons of the present century is the famous Beer Act of 1830. Spirit drinking was terrible; a remedy was sought; the expedient adopted was the Beer Act.

At the Middlesex Sessions, held on Thursday, January 21, 1830, Mr. Serjeant Bell alluded to the increase of the consumption of gin as a dreadful and horrible evil. A year ago there were 825 inmates in the Middlesex Pauper Hospital, but now the number was between 1,100 and 1,200, the increase being mainly attributable to the practice of gin drinking. Sir George Hampson said that the gin-shops were now decorated and fitted up with small private doors, through which women of the middle, and even above the middle classes of society, were not ashamed to enter, and take their dram, when they found they could do so unobserved. Sir Richard Birnie bore testimony to the dreadful prevalence of drunkenness in the Metropolis: there were 72 cases brought to Bow Street on the Monday previous, for absolute and beastly drunkenness, and what was worse, mostly women, who had been picked up in the streets, where they had fallen dead drunk: but while he deplored the enormity of the evil, he declared that it was difficult to fi[Pg 350]nd any remedy for it.

Hoping to do good by substituting beer for spirits, an Act was passed in the 1st Will. IV., ‘to permit the general sale of beer and cider by retail in England.’ The following are its main provisions:—

1. That any householder desirous of selling malt-liquor, by retail, in any house, may obtain an excise licence on payment of two guineas, and for cider only, on paying one guinea.

2. That a list of such licences shall be kept at the Excise office, open to the inspection of the magistrates.

3. That the applicant must give a bond, and find surety for the payment of penalties incurred.

4. Penalty for vending wine and spirits, 20l.

5. In case of riot, magistrates can command the closing of the houses.

6. Penalties for disorderly conducting of the house.

7. Not to open before four a.m., and to close at ten p.m., and during Divine Service on Sundays and holy-days.

How did it work? How did it operate upon the consumption (1) of beer, (2) of spirits? During the ten years preceding the passing of the Beerhouse Act, the quantity of malt used for brewing was 268,139,389 bushels: during the ten years immediately succeeding, the quantity was 344,143,550 bushels, showing an increase of 28 per cent. During the ten years 1821-1830, the quantity of British spirits consumed was 57,970,963 gallons, and during the next ten years it rose to 76,797,365 gallons, an increase of 32 per cent. All this clearly proved that the increased facilities for getting beer created a greater demand for spirits. During the year following the Act, more than 30,000 beer-shops were opened in England and Wales. In Sheffield, as one instance, 300 beer-shops were added to the old complement of public-houses; and it is especially to be not[Pg 351]ed that before the second year had transpired, 110 of the keepers of these houses had applied for spirit licences to satisfy the desire for ardent drinks.

On the motion of the Marquis of Chandos, April 18, 1833, it was ordered in the House of Commons ‘That a select committee be appointed to inquire into the state and management of houses in which beer is sold by retail under the Act 1st Will. IV., cap. 64, commonly called beer-shops, and with a view to making such alterations in the law as may tend to their better regulation, and to report their observations, together with their opinion thereon.’ Thirty-two members were appointed as the committee, and April 22, ten others were added to it. The committee sat April 24, 26, 30, May 1, 3, 7, 8, 10, 14, 15, 17, 20, 21, 22, 24. The witnesses examined were in number 59, among whom were A. Magendie, late Assistant Poor Law Commissioner: A. Crowley (brewer of Alton), magistrates, magistrates’ clerks, beer-sellers, farmers and others. The Marquis of Chandos presided at most of the sittings of the committee. The committee’s report, dated June 21, 1833, contains fifteen resolutions, of which the first was:—‘That it is the opinion of the committee from the evidence that has been adduced that considerable evils have arisen from the present management and conduct of beer-houses.’ The other resolutions expressed the committee’s opinion that every applicant should produce a certificate of good character signed by six rated inhabitants of the parish or township (not beer-sellers)—the certificate to be signed by the overseer or assistant overseer, as a proof that the six persons named were rated inhabitants; that, besides other penalties, magistrates should be able on a second conviction to suspend licences for two years or les[Pg 352]s—a third offence to involve a disqualification for three years; that beer-houses should be closed till half-past twelve on Sunday, that the hours of keeping open at night should be extended in towns and restricted in country districts; and in the last resolution the committee ‘suggest the revisal of the system under which all beer and spirit shops are licensed, and (without expressing a decisive opinion on this extensive subject) your committee feel that very serious reasons of justice and public advantage may be adduced in favour of the assimilation of all the regulations as to hours and management to which every description of house licensed to sell beer or spirituous liquors by retail should be subjected.’ No legislation was superinduced upon this report.[232]

In 1834 Mr. Buckingham moved ‘that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the extent, causes, and consequences of the prevailing vice of intoxication among the labouring classes of the United Kingdom, in order to ascertain whether any legislative measures can be devised to prevent the further spread of so great a national evil.’

This committee, composed of some of the most eminent members of the House, including the late Sir Robert Peel, sat for upwards of twenty-one days receiving evidence. The official report tendered a number of recommendations for repressing the manufacture, importation, and sale of alcoholic liquors, showing that this national disease of drunkenness stood in need of sharp and speedy remedies; and that the administration of these remedies was clearly within the province of the Legislature.

The report is much too long for transcription; but[Pg 353] the principles they lay down are worthy of all acceptation.

(1) That the right of legislative interference for the correction of any evil which affects the public weal, cannot be questioned.

(2) That the power to apply correction by legislative means cannot be doubted, without supposing the better portion of the community unable to control the excesses of the ignorant and disorderly, which would be to declare our incapacity to maintain the first principles of government by ensuring the public safety.

(3) That the sound policy of applying legislative power to direct, restrain, or punish the vicious propensities of the evil disposed, cannot be disputed, without invalidating the right of government to protect the innocent from the violence of the guilty, which would in effect declare all government to be useless; an admission that would undermine the very first principles of society.

Then follow what they propose as:—

Immediate Remedies, Legislative and Moral.

The separation of the houses in which intoxicating drinks are sold in four distinct classes. (1) Houses for the sale of beer only—not to be consumed on the premises. (2) Houses for the sale of beer only—to be consumed on the premises, and in which refreshments of food may also be obtained. (3) Houses for the sale of spirits only—not to be consumed on the premises. (4) Houses for the accommodation of strangers and travellers, where bed and board may be obtained, and in which spirits, wine, and beer may all be sold.

The limiting the number of such houses, of each class, in proportion to population in towns, and to distances and population in country districts: the licences for each to be annual, and granted by magistrates and municipal authorities rather than by the excise; to be chargeable with larger sums annually than are now [Pg 354]paid for them, especially for the sale of spirits; and the keepers of such houses to be subject to progressively increasing fines for disorderly conduct, and forfeiture of licence and closing up of the houses for repeated offences.

The closing of all such houses at earlier hours than at present, and for the most part uniformly with each other. The first and second classes of houses, in which beer only is sold, to be closed on Sunday, except for one hour, afternoon and evening; the third class of houses, where spirits only are sold, to be entirely closed all Sunday; and the fourth class, as inns or hotels, to be closed to all visitors that day, save only travellers and inmates.

The making all retail spirit-shops as open to public view as provision shops.

The refusal of retail spirit licences to all but those who would engage to confine themselves exclusively to dealing in that article: and consequently the entire separation of the retail sale of spirits from groceries, provisions, wine or beer, except only in inns.

The discontinuance of all issues of ardent spirits (except medicinal) to the navy and army, &c., and the substitution of articles of wholesome nutriment. The abolition of all garrison and barrack canteens, and the substitution of some other and better mode of filling up the leisure of men confined within military forts and lines: the opinions of most of the military officers examined on this point by your Committee being that the drinking in such canteens is the most fertile source of all insubordination, crime, and consequent punishment inflicted on the men.

The withholding from the ships employed in the merchant service the drawback granted to them on foreign spirits, by which they are now enabled to ship their supplies of that article at a reduced scale of duty, and are thus induced to take on board a greater quantity than is necessary, to the increased danger of the property embarked, and to the injury of the crew. The prohibition of the practice of paying the wages of workmen at public-houses, or any other place where intoxicating drinks are sold.

The providing for the payment of such wages to every individual his exact amount, except when combined in families: so as to render it unnecessary for men to frequent the public-houses, and spend a portion of their earnings to obtain change.

The payment of wages at or before the breakfast hour in the mornings of the principal market-day in each town, to enable the [Pg 355]wives or other providers of workmen to lay out their earnings in necessary provisions at an early period of the market, instead of risking its dissipation at night in the public-house.

The prohibition of the meetings of all friendly societies, sick clubs, money clubs, masonic lodges, or any other permanent associations of mutual benefit and relief at public-houses, or places where intoxicating drinks are sold; as such institutions, when not formed expressly for the benefit of such public-houses, and when they are bonâ fide associations of mutual help in the time of need, can, with far more economy and much greater efficacy, rent and occupy for their periodical meetings equally appropriate rooms in other places.

The establishment, by the joint aid of the Government and the local authorities and residents on the spot, of public walks, and gardens, or open spaces for athletic and healthy exercises in the open air, in the immediate vicinity of every town, of an extent, and character adapted to its population; and of district and parish libraries, museums, and reading rooms, accessible at the lowest rate of charge; so as to admit of one or the other being visited in any weather, and at any time; with the rigid exclusion of all intoxicating drinks of every kind from all such places, whether in the open air or closed.

The reduction of the duty on tea, coffee, and sugar, and all the healthy and unintoxicating articles of drink in ordinary use; so as to place within the reach of all classes the least injurious beverages on much cheaper terms than the most destructive.

The encouragement of Temperance Societies in every town and village of the kingdom, the only bond of association being a voluntary engagement to abstain from the use of ardent spirits as a customary drink, and to discourage, by precept and example, all habits of intemperance in themselves and others.

The diffusion of sound information as to the extensive evils produced to individuals and to the State, by the use of any beverage that destroys the health, cripples the industry, and poisons the morals of its victims.

The institution of every subordinate auxiliary means of promoting the reformation of all such usages, courtesies, habits and customs of the people, as lead to intemperate habits; more especially the exclusion of ardent spirits from all places where large numbers are congregated either for business or pleasure, and the changing the current opinion of such spirits being wholesome and beneficial (which the frequent practice of our offering them to those [Pg 356]whom we wish to please or reward so constantly fosters and prolongs) into the opinion of their being a most pernicious evil, which should on all occasions be avoided, as poisoner of the health, the morals, and the peace of society.

The removal of all taxes on knowledge, and the extending every facility to the widest spread of useful information to the humblest classes of the community.

A national system of education, which should ensure the means of instruction to all ranks and classes of the people, and which, in addition to the various branches of requisite and appropriate knowledge, should embrace, as an essential part of the instruction given by it to every child in the kingdom, accurate information as to the poisonous and invariably deleterious nature of ardent spirits, as an article of diet, in any form or shape; and the inculcation of a sense of shame at the crime of voluntarily destroying, or thoughtlessly obscuring that faculty of reasoning, and that consciousness of responsibility, which chiefly distinguish man from the brute, and which his Almighty Maker, when He created him in His own image, implanted in the human race to cultivate, to improve, and to refine—and not to corrupt, to brutalise, and to destroy.

Ultimate or Prospective Remedies.

The ultimate or prospective remedies which have been strongly urged by several witnesses, and which they think, when public opinion shall be sufficiently awakened to the great national importance of the subject, may be safely recommended, include the following:—

(a) The absolute prohibition of the importation from any foreign country, or from our colonies, of distilled spirits in any shape.

(b) The equally absolute prohibition of all distillation of ardent spirits from grain.

(c) The restriction of distillation from other materials, to the purposes of the arts, manufactures, and medicine, and the confining the wholesale and retail dealing in such articles to chemists, druggists, and dispensaries alone.

[Pg 357]

Finally they conclude:—

As your Committee are fully aware that one of the most important elements in successful legislation is the obtaining the full sanction and support of public opinion in favour of the laws—and as this is most powerful and most enduring when based on careful investigation and accurate knowledge as the result, they venture still further to recommend the most extensive circulation during the recess, under the direct sanction of the Legislature, of an abstract of the evidence obtained by this inquiry, in a cheap and portable volume, as was done with the Poor Law Report, to which it would form the best auxiliary; the national cost of intoxication and its consequences being tenfold greater in amount than that of the poor-rates, and pauperism itself being indeed chiefly caused by habits of intemperance, of which it is but one out of many melancholy and fatal results.

By 4th and 5th William IV., the preamble whereof recites that much evil had arisen from the management of houses in which beer and cider are sold, it was enacted that each beer-seller is to obtain his annual excise licence only on condition of placing in the hands of the excise, a certificate of good character signed by six rated inhabitants of his parish (none of whom must be brewers or maltsters), if in a town of 5,000 inhabitants; but the house to be one rated at 10l. a year. This Act also distinguishes between persons who sell liquor to be drunk on the premises, and those who sell it only to be drunk elsewhere. By a Treasury order, beer sold at, or under, 1½d. per quart, may be retailed without licence.

It is well known that Lord Brougham was a warm advocate of the Beer Act in the first instance. He entirely changed his opinion. In 1839, he said in the Upper House:—

To what good was it that the Legislature should pass laws to punish crime, or that their lordships should occupy themselves in finding out modes of improving the morals of the people by giving them education? What could be the use of sowin[Pg 358]g a little seed here, and plucking up a weed there, if these beer-shops were to be continued that they might go on to sow the seeds of immorality broadcast over the land, germinating the most frightful produce that had ever been allowed to grow up in a civilised country, and, he was ashamed to add, under the fostering care of Parliament, and throwing its baleful influences over the whole community?

Queen Victoria had scarcely ascended the throne before she was reminded that the evils of the drink traffic were upmost in the minds of many of her Majesty’s subjects. At a Conference held at Carnarvon, August 2, 1837, a congratulatory address to the Sovereign upon her accession was drawn up. It stated:—

To this declaration not less than one hundred thousand of your Majesty’s loyal subjects have already subscribed their names, some thousands of whom had previously been drunkards. And could we convey to your royal mind the incalculable benefits resulting from the simple means of total abstinence from intoxicating liquor, we would with humble confidence earnestly entreat your Majesty to condescend to patronise our endeavour to wipe away from Britain the plague-spot of drunkenness.

In the treatment of this period, we have to confront an apparent anomaly, viz. the largest drink bills on record, and the most strenuous efforts to get rid of drink altogether. That the Statute Book bristles with legislative interference, is sufficiently accounted for by these two circumstances. In no period has legislation been to the same extent an index of the precise situation. Let us at once address ourselves to its salient features.

By the 2nd and 3rd Victoria, called the Metropolitan Police Act, operating within a circle of fifteen miles from Charing Cross, all public-houses are to be shut on Sundays until one o’clock p.m., except for travellers: and publicans are prohibited, under penalties of 20l., 40l., and 50l., for the first, second, and third offences, from selling spirits to young persons under sixteen years of age.

[Pg 359]

By the 3rd and 4th Victoria a licence can only be granted to the real occupier of the house; and the rated value to be 15l. in towns of 10,000 inhabitants; 11l. in towns of between 2,500 and 10,000; and 8l. in smaller places. The hours for opening and closing within the metropolitan boroughs are 5 a.m. and 12 p.m.; but 11 o’clock in any place within the bills of mortality, or any city, town, or place not containing above 2,500 inhabitants. In smaller places 10 o’clock p.m. On any Sunday, Good Friday, or Christmas Day, or any day appointed for a public fast or thanksgiving, the houses are not to be opened before one o’clock p.m. Licensed victuallers and keepers of beer-shops who sell ale to be drunk on the premises, may have soldiers billeted on them.

On June 15, 1849, a Select Committee of the Lords, on the motion of the Earl of Harrowby, who became its chairman, was appointed ‘to consider the operations of the Acts for the sale of beer, and to report thereon to the House.’ The Committee held sittings June 25, 28, July 5, 12, 13, and 20. Next session it was reappointed, and took evidence February 28, March 5 and 19; and the report agreed upon bears date May 3, 1850. Fifteen witnesses were examined in the first session, and ten in the second session. The Committee’s report refers to the evidence and petitions which had come before them, and then proceeds: ‘On a review of all the statements and opinions which have thus been brought before them, the Committee have no hesitation in stating that the expectations of those who proposed the existing system have not been realised. Their object appears to have been to create a class of houses of refreshment, respectable in character, brewing their own beer, diminishing by the supply of a cheap and wholesome beverage the consumption of ardent spirits, and thus contributing to the happiness and comforts of the labouring classes. But it appears that of these houses only one-twelfth brew their own beer; that a very large proportion are, as in the case of public-houses, the actual property of brewers, or tied by advances to them; that they are notorious for[Pg 360] the sale of an inferior article; that the consumption of ardent spirits has, from whatever cause, far from diminished; and that the comforts and morals of the poor have been seriously impaired. It was already sufficiently notorious that drunkenness is the main cause of crime, disorder, and distress in England, and it appears that the multiplication of houses for the consumption of intoxicating liquors, which under the Beer Act has risen from 88,930 to 123,396, has been thus in itself an evil of the first magnitude, not only by increasing the temptations to excess, which are thus presented at every step, but by driving houses, even those under the direct control of the magistrates, as well as others originally respectable, to practices for the purpose of attracting custom which are degrading to their character, and most injurious to morality and disorder.’ The increase of crime is next adverted to, and the defects of the system pointed out, such as an ‘unlimited multiplication’ of the worst class of beer-houses, the want of security as to character, the low rating, the opening of beer-houses in obscure localities—‘But, perhaps, the evil of all the most difficult to deal with is the absence of all control save by legal conviction almost impracticable to attain.’ ‘The magnitude of these evils has led to a widely-extended feeling in favour of an abandonment of that part of the existing law by which consumption on the premises is permitted. But the existence of houses conducted under a beer licence with propriety and advantage, and the length of time which this system has already endured, have made the Committee unwilling to contemplate a change so extensive until experience shall have proved that it is impossible by other means to abate the evil.’ The suggestions of the Select Committee were to the effect that all beer and coffee-shops should be open to the visits of the police; that new applicants for a beer licence should be compelled to procure certificates from the magistrates in Petty Sessions that they were satisfied as to the rating and character of the applicant; that the rating should be in places with less than 2,500 population, 10l.; under 10,000, 15l.; above 10,000, 20l. (the rating required by the existing law being, severally, 8l., 11l., and 15l.); that applicants should give one month’s notice, the notice to be affixed for three weeks to some public place, before the Petty Sessions, at which three out of six of the certifiers to character should attend with the overseers of the respective parishes, rate-book in hand; no magistrate’s certificate to be granted to any person convicted of misdemeanour or who[Pg 361] had forfeited a spirit licence; no person licensed to sell beer for consumption on the premises to sell any other article except refreshments and tobacco; that debts for intoxicating liquors drunk on the premises not to be recoverable by law.[233]

In 1853, a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to examine into the system under which public-houses, &c., are regulated, with a view of reporting whether any alteration of the law can be made for the better preservation of the public morals, the protection of the revenue, and for the proper accommodation of the public; which sat for 41 days, examining witnesses and considering evidence, under the able presidency of the Right Hon. C. P. Villiers (§ 29). The report and evidence, now published, form two ponderous Blue-books of 1,174 folio pages. The chief points of the Report from the Select Committee on Public-houses, July 1854, are the following:—

1. The distinctions as to licences lead to evasion of the law.

2. The distinction between beer-shops and public-houses give rise to unhealthy competition, under which both parties are drawn to extreme expedients for the attraction of custom. Mr. Stanton, a publican, says:—‘There is a great deal of gambling carried on in Birmingham, although the police do all they can to put it down. If the licensed victuallers did not allow it, the parties would go to a beer-house.’

3. Beer is seldom at the public-house what it was at the brewery. A late partner in one of the metropolitan breweries says:—‘It is quite notorious if you drink beer at the brewery, and at a public-house a little way off, you find it a very different commodity’ (4538).

4. The drinks are adulterated, as well as diluted. Mr. Ridley, who has under his management certain offices for the analysation of alcoholic liquors, states that there are several recipes, such as [Pg 362]‘To a barrel of porter [add] 12 gallons of liquor, 4 lbs. of foots, 1 lb. of salt; and sometimes to bring a head up [and lay it down?], a little vitriol, cocculus indicus, also a variety of things very minute’ (4700). Mr. J. W. McCulloch, analytic chemist, in 40 samples of brewers’ beer, found 10½ gallons proof spirit to every 100 gallons, but at several of the licensed victuallers supplied by those brewers it did not reach 7; and out of 150 samples there was not one within 20 per cent. of the brewery standard.

5. That magistrates do not enforce the law, or very rarely.

6. ‘The beer-shop system has proved a failure. It was established under the belief that it would give the public their beer cheap and pure; would dissociate beer-drinking from drunkenness, and lead to the establishment, throughout the country, of a class of houses of refreshment, altogether free from the disorders supposed to attend exclusively on the sale of spirits.’

7. The Committee concur in the statement of the Lords’ Report on the Sale of Beer Act, that ‘It was already sufficiently notorious that drunkenness is the main cause of crime, disorder, and distress in England; and it appears that the multiplication of houses for the consumption of intoxicating liquors, under the Beer Act, has risen from 88,930 to 123,306.’

8. That throughout the country ‘the publicans are completely under the thumb of the brewers.’

9. The trade of a publican is looked upon as a peculiar privilege. The hope of obtaining a licence increases beer-shops.

10. It seems desirable that a higher rate of duty be paid for a licence, and more stringent regulations enforced as to character and sureties.

11. Statistics of intemperance defective. The evidence before the Committee is sufficient to show that the amount of drunkenness is very much greater than appears upon the face of any official returns.

12. There are many places where beer is sold without a licence. Some of them, under cover of the law permitting beer at 1½d. a quart to be sold without licence, sell also porter and ale (6882). ‘At the single town of Fazeley there are about 30 houses that sell porter, ale, and beer indiscriminately; they are private houses, known as “Bush-houses,” from their having a bush over the door as a sign to their frequenters’ (4838, 6840). At Oldham ‘there are from 400 to 500 such places, known there as Hush-shops, where [Pg 363]they brew their own beer, and have each their own known customers.’ At Bolton, at Preston, and in Hampshire and London, similar practices are more or less prevalent (3664, 3679).

13. ‘The temptation is strong to encourage intemperance, and a vast number of the houses for the sale of intoxicating drinks live upon drunkards and the sure progress of multitudes to drunkenness.’

14. ‘Your Committee do not feel it necessary to follow the evidence upon the connection of intoxicating drinks with crime; it has, directly or indirectly, been the subject of inquiry at different times, and has been reported upon by numerous committees of your Honourable House, who bear unvarying testimony both to the general intemperance of criminals, and the increase and diminution of crime in direct ratio with the increased or diminished consumption of intoxicating drinks.... The entire evidence tends to establish that it is essential that the sale of intoxicating drinks shall be under strict supervision and control.’

15. ‘The testimony is universal that the greatest amount of drinking takes place on Saturday night, and during the hours that the houses are allowed by law to be open on Sunday.’

16. ‘It need not be matter of surprise that in view of the vast mass of evils found in connection with intemperance, it should have been suggested altogether to prohibit the manufacture and sale of intoxicating drinks. Laws to that effect are in force in the States of Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Michigan, in the United States; and your Committee have had before them several zealous promoters of an Association established to procure the enactment of similar laws in England.’[234]

On July 13, 1854, Colonel Wilson Patten strove to give effect to the provisions of the Villiers Committee. His Bill, known as the ‘Sunday Beer Act,’ was ‘A Bill for further regulating the sale of beer and other liquors on the Lord’s day.’

This Act closed public-houses and beer-shops on Sunday, from half-past two o’clock p.m. until six p.m., and from ten o’clock on Sunday evening until four a.m. on Monday. During the few months of its operating, t[Pg 364]here was a sensible abatement of drunkenness and disorder, as is testified by the returns from the police, throughout the country. We cite places by way of specimen. Warrington: ‘A most remarkable difference is observable in the general order which prevails throughout the town, as well as by the discontinuance of fearful affrays, and riotous conduct.’ Liverpool: ‘The new Act,’ says Mr. Greig, head constable of the police, ‘has been attended with the most beneficial results.’ London: Mr. G. A’Beckett, magistrate of the Southwark Police Court, in a letter to the Times, Jan. 8, 1855, says, ‘that on the Monday mornings before the Act, the business of the court was greater than on any other days, but that since, it had only averaged two cases of drunkenness for each Sunday.’ In 1855, the Wilson Patten Act was superseded by the New Beer Bill of Mr. Henry Berkeley, which extended the hour of closing to eleven at night, and gave a little more freedom to the traffic on the Sunday afternoon. The history of this remarkable piece of legislation is worth preserving, as a monument of its author’s—character. In a speech delivered by him, at the second anniversary dinner of the Licensed Victuallers’ Association, Bristol, reported in the Bristol Mercury, of Nov. 4, 1854, he said, that after Wilson Patten’s Bill had passed the second reading, he had been waited on by a deputation, but that being the ‘eleventh hour,’ no successful opposition could then be offered. He believed the words he used to the deputation were, ‘If nobody else comes forward I will have a shy at it.’ This it will be seen, was just before the Bill became law, and, therefore, before it had gone into effect. Mr. Berkeley opposed it without trial, and stood pledged against it without regard to its results. On Feb. 20, 1855, immediately after the meeting of Parliament, [Pg 365]Mr. Berkeley, in his place in Parliament, inquired of the Government, whether they intended to do anything in reference to the Act, and received a reply that it was not their intention to repeal it. Mr. Berkeley then recommended the appointment of a select committee. This created considerable division among the publicans, who held many meetings for discussion, at all of which Mr. Berkeley was recognised as ‘their experienced and talented adviser.’ (See the Daily News, April and May, 1855, and The Era of April 22.) On April 23 a meeting of delegates is reported, in The Era of the 29th, to have been held in Mr. Painter’s public-house, Bridge Street, Westminster, which resulted in the appointment of a deputation to consult with Mr. Berkeley. The deputation is reported to have waited on Mr. Berkeley in the lobby of the House of Commons. ‘A long desultory conversation ensued, after which Mr. Berkeley advised the delegates to confer among themselves, and to consider well the course which would be most beneficial for them to pursue. He would postpone for a week his motion for a Select Committee.... Eventually his advice was accepted, and on June 26, 1855, his motion for a Select Committee was agreed to by the House—Mr. Cobbett, the seconder, remarking that no legislation could be attempted that session.[235]

In 1860, Mr. Gladstone’s Wine Licences Act was passed. This measure permitted foreign wines to be sold for consumption on the premises to various classes of refreshment houses. It gave concurrent power to grocers, &c., to sell those wines in bottles for consumption off the premises. The introducer of this measure, then Chancellor[Pg 366] of the Exchequer, stated that the proposal was not intended merely as a means of raising revenue, but as one carrying out the principles of free trade, and contributing to the comforts and conveniences of the people.[236] The following statistics have been carefully gathered by Mr. Samuelson, from which some estimate may be formed of the effect produced by this legislation of Mr. Gladstone:—Beginning with the year 1859, the wine imported from France was 695,911 gallons; from Spain and Portugal, 4,893,916 gallons; whilst in 1876 the wine imported from France was 6,745,710 gallons, and from Spain and Portugal, 10,186,332 gallons. The importation of strong wines had therefore actually fallen below the average of 1863-65, whilst that of French wine had increased tenfold by the reduction of the duty.[237]

In 1863, Mr. J. Somes introduced into Parliament his Sunday Closing Bill, which proposed to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors, except to bonâ fide travellers, from eleven o’clock on Saturday night to six o’clock Monday morning. The Bill was rejected.

In March 1864, Sir W. Lawson introduced into the House his Permissive Bill; which provides that on application of any district, the votes of the ratepayers shall be taken as to whether the traffic shall exist in that district or not; a majority of two-thirds of the ratepayers being necessary to decide the question. This Bill was the embodiment of the principles of the ‘United Kingdom Alliance.’

In 1868, the Bill of Mr. John Abel Smith was rejected; which, while prohibiting Sunday drinking on the premises, [Pg 367]allowed four hours for the sale of dinner and supper beer.

In 1869, the Government adopted the Bill of Sir H. Selwyn-Ibbetson, entitled The Wine and Beerhouse Act, which transferred the power of licensing beer-houses from the excise to the magistracy, who now could exercise over all applications for new beer and wine licences the same discretionary control, as in the case of spirit licences. By this measure the number of such houses was limited. But the 50,000 existing houses, with the exception of a few denounced dens, were perpetuated—a new monopoly and with it a new vested interest was created, and a point of reform was reached much below that for which the public opinion of the country was prepared.[238]

In 1869, Mr. Peter Rylands moved for the adoption of his Resolution,—‘That in the opinion of this House it is expedient that any measure for the general amendment of the laws for licensing public-houses, beer-houses, and refreshment houses, should include the prohibition of the sale of liquors on Sunday.’ This fell through. But in 1871, the same member succeeded in getting read a second time a much modified Bill, which was, however, negatived when it came on for Committee.

In 1871, Lord Aberdare (then Mr. Bruce), the Home Secretary, introduced a Bill on behalf of the Government, with the professed object of reforming the laws relating to the licensing of the sale of intoxicating liquors. He denounced, in his introductory speech, the existing laws as seriously defective, and tending to undermine the best interests of the community. The Bill was thorough, honest, and calculated in ten years to have changed the face of the community, by its many provisions calculated [Pg 368]to restrain the traffic as well as the hours of sale, week day and Sunday.

Amongst its wisest provisions was the appointment of inspectors of the trade. But a panic set in, and Mr. Bruce was obliged to withdraw, and a suspensory measure preventing the issue of any fresh licences for the next year, was introduced by Sir R. Anstruther, and became law. In two years, however, it was succeeded by an amended Bill, which rendered its chief provisions practically null.

In 1872, Mr. Hugh Birley introduced his Sunday Closing Bill into the House. But it got no further than its first reading.

In 1876, Mr. Joseph Cowen’s Bill for the establishment of licensing boards was thrown out.

In 1877, Mr. Chamberlain introduced a motion for the adoption of the ‘Gothenburg System,’ the main principle of which is, that municipal corporations should have power to buy up and become owners of public-house licences, their agents to have no personal or pecuniary interest in the profits, but rather be encouraged to push the sale of food and non-intoxicants, and all profits derived from the sale of intoxicating liquors be devoted to the relief of the rates, &c. The motion was rejected.

In 1876 ‘The Lords’ Committee on Intemperance’ was appointed, on the motion of Dr. Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘for the purpose of inquiring into the prevalence of habits of intemperance, and into the manner in which these habits have been affected by recent legislation and other causes.’[239]

In 1877-78, the committee, not having as yet acted, was reappoint[Pg 369]ed. One hundred witnesses were examined, including members of Parliament, magistrates, clergymen, constables, municipal authorities, doctors, merchants, &c. In their bulky report, issued in 1879, they recommend:—

1. That legislative facilities should be afforded for the local adoption of the Gothenburg and Chamberlain schemes, or of some modification of them.

2. That renewals of beer-house licences before 1879 should be placed on the same footing as those of public-houses.

3. That in cases of decisions affecting the renewal of licences in boroughs having separate quarter sessions, the appeal shall be to the Recorder, where there is one, and not to the county justices.

4. That justices should be authorised to refuse transfers on the same grounds of misconduct as those on which renewals of licences are now refused.

5. That no removal of a licence from house to house should be sanctioned without allowing the inhabitants of the interested locality the opportunity of expressing their objections.

6. A considerable increase in licence duties.

7. Licensed houses outside the metropolis, not to open before 7 a.m. and be closed earlier than at present.

8. That licensed houses in Scotland and Ireland be closed one hour earlier than at present on week-days.

9. That on Sundays, licensed houses in the metropolis should be open from one to three p.m. for consumption off the premises, and for consumption on, from seven to eleven p.m. In other places from 12.30 to 2.30 p.m. for consumption off, and for consumption on the premises from 7 to 10 p.m. in populous places, and from 7 to 9 in others.

10. Even if a person, professing to be a bonâ fide traveller, has on the previous night lodged outside the 3-mile limit, as defined by the Act, it still rests with the magistrates to determine whether he be a bonâ fide traveller or not.

[Pg 370]

11. That justices should have discretionary power of licensing music-halls and dancing saloons in the country as at present in the metropolis, whether connected with public-houses or not, and that all such places should be subject to supervision by the police.

12. That certain serious offences should entail the compulsory endorsement of the licence, and that the treating of constables should be added to the list of offences included in the category.

13. That any person ‘having or keeping for sale’ any intoxicating liquors without a licence, should be liable to penalties of the same description and amount as those under the existing law ‘for selling or exposing for sale,’ and that the powers of apprehension upon warrant in cases of illicit drinking should be generally applied.

14. That the entering of liquors under some other name upon the bill of a shopkeeper holding a licence to sell off the premises should be an offence against the licence punishable by immediate forfeiture.

15. That a list of convictions kept by the justices’ clerks should be legal evidence of previous convictions.

16. That all occasional licences to sell elsewhere than on licensed premises should be granted by two justices at quarter sessions.

17. That fines and penalties should apply in Scotland as in England.

18. That the ‘Grocers’ Licence’ recommendation of the Royal Commission of 1877 should be adopted in Ireland.

19. That in Ireland and Scotland, as in England, no spirits should be sold to children under sixteen.[240]

In 1879, Dr. Cameron’s Habitual Drunkards Bill became law.

In the same year, Mr. Stevenson introduced the English Sunday Closing Bill, which met with a by no means unfavourable reception, though it was not at present carried. The following year he moved again in the same direction. Mr. Pease carried an amendment to this which provided for off sale during limited hours in the country, and for such modified sale in the metropolitan districts as would satisfy the wish of the country.

[Pg 371]

In 1880, Sir Wilfrid Lawson carried his ‘Local Option’ resolution, by a majority of twenty-six. This was another form of the original ‘Permissive Bill.’ All detail is here omitted. It affirms the justice of local communities being entrusted with the power to protect themselves from the operation of the liquor traffic.

In June, 1881, the same baronet moved: ‘That in the opinion of this House, it is desirable to give legislative effect to the resolution passed on June 18, 1880.’ This was carried by a majority of forty-two.

Earl Stanhope’s Bill for preventing payment of wages in public-houses has passed the Upper House.

An important scheme of amendment of the licensing laws was put forward by the ‘Committee on Intemperance for the Lower House of Convocation of the Province of Canterbury.’

Convinced that without an improved and stringent system of legislation, and its strict enforcement, no effectual and permanent remedy for intemperance can be looked for, they urge as

Legislative Remedies

1. The repeal of the Beer Act of 1830, and the total suppression of beer-houses throughout the country.

2. The closing of public-houses on Sunday, bonâ fide travellers excepted.

3. The earlier closing of public-houses on week-days, especially on Saturday.

4. A great reduction in the number of public-houses throughout the kingdom; it being in evidence that in proportion as facilities for drinking are reduced, intemperance is restrained.

5. Placing the whole licensing system under one authority.

6. The rigid enforcement of the penalties now attached to drunkenness, both on the actual offenders and on licensed persons who allow drunkenness to occur on their premises.

[Pg 372]

7. Passing an Act to prevent the same person holding a music, dancing, or billiard licence, in conjunction with a drink licence.

8. Prohibiting the use of public-houses as committee rooms at elections, and closing such houses on the days of nomination and election in every Parliamentary borough.

9. The appointment of a distinct class of police for the inspection of public-houses, and frequent visitation of publics for the detection of adulterations, to be followed, on conviction, with severe penalties.

10. The repeal of all the duties on tea, coffee, chocolate, and sugar.

11. Your Committee, in conclusion, are of opinion that as the ancient and avowed object of licensing the sale of intoxicating liquors is to supply a supposed public want, without detriment to the public welfare, a legal power of restraining the issue or renewal of licences should be placed in the hands of the persons most deeply interested and affected—namely, the inhabitants themselves—who are entitled to protection from the injurious consequences of the present system. Such a power would, in effect, secure to the districts, willing to exercise it, the advantages now enjoyed by the numerous parishes in the Province of Canterbury, where, according to reports furnished to your Committee, owing to the influence of the landowner, no sale of intoxicating liquors is licensed.

Few, it may be believed, are cognisant of the fact that there are at this time within the Province of Canterbury, more than one thousand parishes in which there is neither public-house nor beer-shop; and where, in consequence of the absence of these inducements to crime and pauperism, the intelligence, morality and comfort of the people are such as the friends of temperance would have anticipated.

The non-legislative recommendations urge the removal of benefit clubs from taverns, the discontinuance of wage-payment in them, and the providing of ample and varied counter-attractions.

Thus much for legislation, and for the impulses that stimulate thereunto. Much has been written both for and against restriction. Violently opposed to it was Mr. John Stuart Mill, who m[Pg 373]ay well claim to be the mouthpiece of the adversaries of prohibition. Speaking on the laws against intemperance in his Essay on Liberty, he remarks:—

Under the name of preventing intemperance, the people of one English colony, and of nearly half the United States, have been interdicted by law from making any use whatever of fermented drinks, except for medical purposes; for prohibition of their sale is, in fact, as it is intended to be, prohibition of their use. And though the impracticability of executing the law has caused its repeal in several of the states which had adopted it, including the one from which it derives its name, an attempt has notwithstanding been commenced, and is prosecuted with considerable zeal by many of the professed philanthropists, to agitate for a similar law in this country. The association, or ‘Alliance,’ as it terms itself, which has been formed for this purpose, has acquired some notoriety through the publicity given to a correspondence between its secretary and one of the very few English public men who hold that a politician’s opinions ought to be founded on principles. Lord Stanley’s share in this correspondence is calculated to strengthen the hopes already built on him, by those who know how rare such qualities as are manifested in some of his public appearances, unhappily are among those who figure in political life. The organ of the Alliance, who would ‘deeply deplore the recognition of any principle which could be wrested to justify bigotry and persecution,’ undertakes to point out the ‘broad and impassable barrier’ which divides such principles from those of the association. ‘All matters relating to thought, opinion, conscience, appear to me,’ he says, ‘to be without the sphere of legislation; all pertaining to social act, habit, relation, subject only to a discretionary power vested in the state itself, and not in the individual to be within it.’ No mention is made of a third class, different from either of these—namely, acts and habits which are not social, but individual—although it is to this class, surely, that the act of drinking fermented liquors belongs. Selling fermented liquors, however, is trading, and trading is a social act. But the infringement complained of is not on the liberty of the seller, but on that of the buyer and consumer; since the state might just as well forbid him to drink wine, as purposely make it impossible for him to obtain it. The secretary, however, says: ‘I claim, as a citizen, a right to legislate whenever my socia[Pg 374]l rights are invaded by the social act of another.’ And now for the definition of these ‘social rights.’ ‘If anything invades my social rights, certainly the traffic in strong drink does. It destroys my primary right of security, by constantly creating and stimulating social disorder. It invades my right of equality, by deriving a profit from the creation of a misery I am taxed to support. It impedes my right to free moral and intellectual development, by surrounding my path with dangers, and by weakening and demoralising society from which I have a right to claim mutual aid and intercourse.’ A theory of ‘social rights,’ the like of which probably never before found its way into distinct language; being nothing short of this, that it is the absolute social right of every individual, that every other individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance. So monstrous a principle is far more dangerous than any single interference with liberty; there is no violation of liberty which it would not justify; it acknowledges no right to any freedom whatever, except, perhaps, to that of holding opinions in secret, without ever disclosing them; for the moment, an opinion, which I consider noxious, passes any one’s lips, it invades all the ‘social rights’ attributed to me by the Alliance. The doctrine ascribes to all mankind a vested interest in each other’s moral, intellectual, and even physical perfection, to be defined by each claimant according to his own standard.

Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson, from another point of view, and looking at the probable effects of restraint, makes the following remarkable observation:—

Obedience to his genius is a man’s only liberating influence. We wish to escape from subjection, and a sense of inferiority—and we make self-denying ordinances, we drink water, we eat grass, we refuse the laws, we go to jail: it is all in vain; only by obedience to his genius, only by the freest activity in the way constitutional to him, does an angel seem to arise before a man, and lead him by the hand out of all the wards of the prison.[241]

And it was from deep conviction, and not as a flippant apophthegm, that Bishop Magee pronounced that[Pg 375] he preferred to see England free, to England sober.

Yet Mr. Augustus Sala, a man of ample observation and reflection, thought otherwise. He says:—

We drink the very strongest liquors that can be brewed or distilled; the classes among us who are not decent are in the habit of getting mad drunk, and of fighting, after the manner of wild beasts when they have a chance of using their fists, their feet, or their teeth on each other, or on the guardians of the law. Our places of licensed victualling are merely ugly dens, where the largest number of sots can get tipsy in the shortest space of time; and Sunday in London with all the public-houses, all the music halls thrown unrestrictedly open from morning till night would exhibit the most horrible terrestrial inferno that eye ever beheld, that the ear ever heard, or the heart ever sickened at. We are so very strong and stalwart, and earnest, and English, in a word, that we need in our diversions a number of restrictive check and kicking-straps, which the feebler and less pugnacious people of the Continent do not require.[242]

He felt that:—

Law does not put the least restraint
Upon our freedom, but maintains it:
Or, if it does, ‘tis for our good
To give us freer latitude
For wholesome laws preserve us free
By stinting of our liberty.

Or, as it has been admirably expressed:—

There are wheels within wheels, and there are liberties within liberties; and what we contend for in respect to liberty is this, that we are preaching against a liberty which is created, and for a liberty which is eternal.

At any rate, as long as it can be proved that drunkenness prevails in any sense in the direct ratio of the facilities for obtaining drink, so long must the question [Pg 376]of those facilities remain upon the legislative agenda.

The problem is: can you separate the facilities for getting drink from those of getting drunken. For the man who can solve this problem, a niche in the temple of fame remains unfilled.

There are plenty who are ready to exclaim that the causes of excess are easy to define. They would tell us that it arises from an unholy alliance between human nature and artificial stimulant. And they would glibly argue—take away the man from the drink, or the drink from the man, and excess is at an end. But one of these factors, human nature, declines the divorce. Still, however, there remains a sphere for legislative and philanthropic effort. There may be a loosing of the bands of this too often unholy alliance. You may get rid of many predisposing causes.

One of these, and a powerful one, is ignorance, and that of many kinds. Mr. Buckle remarks:—

The most active cause of crime is drunkenness, and this is caused partly by misery, partly by ignorance, which makes men think it a remedy, and partly by a want of intellectual occupation.... Drunkenness caused by an ignorant belief that without spirits and beer, strength to work cannot be kept up.... The greater the amount of misery and depression, the greater the amount of drunkenness.[243]

M. Compte thought that drunkenness is promoted by an ignorance of its results: and there is an element of truth here. How many vainly look to it to drive away remorse, care, and sorrow; thus, Horace (i. 18):—

Mordaces aliter diffugiunt sollicitudines.

[Pg 377]

Liebig, in his Letters on Chemistry, says that it is the effect of poverty, deficient nutriment requiring the compensation of alcohol. Horace seems to have combined these notions:—

Ebrietas quid non designat? operta recludit
Spes jubet esse ratas: in prælia trudit inertem,
Sollicitis animis onus eximit: addocet artes.
Fæcundi calices, quem non fecere disertum?
Contracta quem non in paupertate solutum.

And to much the same effect, Ovid:—

Vina parant animos, faciuntque coloribus aptos.
Cura fugit, multo diluiturque mero.
Tunc veniunt risus, tunc pauper cornua sumit,
Tunc dolor et curæ, rugaque frontis abit.
Tunc aperit mentes, ævo rarissima nostro
Simplicitas, artes excutiente Deo.

Others assign as the cause depressing influences. Thus in the Transactions of Association for Promoting Social Science, London, 1859, pp. 86-89, ‘it is said that crime is caused by drunkenness, and that (drunkenness) by foul air and the depressing influence of bad localities, bringing with it a fierce desire for stimulants, and by bad and deficient water.’

The poet Burns contributed not a little to the popular notion that under such circumstances strong drink (particularly the ‘mountain dew’) was the panacea:—

Food fills the wame, an’ keeps us livin’:
Tho’ life’s a gift no worth receivin’,
When heavy dragg’d wi’ pine and grievin’;
But oil’d by thee,
The wheels o’ life gae down-hill scrievin’,
Wi’ rattlin glee.

[Pg 378]Thou clears the head o’ doited lear;
Thou cheers the heart o’ drooping care;
Thou strings the nerves o’ labour sair,
At’s weary toil;
Thou even brightens dark despair
Wi’ gloomy smile.

Again, the social usages of society have a powerful tendency to indulgence. Friendship and good cheer seem indissolubly intertwined. Cups that cheer have long been regarded as essential items. But it must be set down as an unquestionable fact that in the higher circles of society, far less is drunk than formerly. The London clubs are a very fair index of the condition of things existing within that sphere. In them, excess is now practically unknown; at any rate in the more select clubs. Their cellars teem with good wine now, as they did half a century ago, when we read:—

The value of the stores found in the cellars of the various Club-houses in London, may be adduced in evidence of the estimation in which wine is held, by a portion, at least, of the higher classes in the metropolis. Carlton Club, 1,500l.; United University Club, not much under 2,000l. The Literary and Scientific Athenæum, 3,500l. to 4,000l. The Union Club appears to exceed the rest in the contents of its cellars, which remarks the writer, from whose work we extract this information, ‘disguise it as people will, is the most important matter after all.’ The stock of wine (the Chairman declares it to be an under-estimate) according to a recent valuation, amounts to 7,150l. The Junior United Service Club values its stock of wines at 3,722l. Those of the United Service Club are worth, it is said, 7,722l.[244]

But riot and rowdyism are things of the past.

Among the middle classes, many of the compulsory drinking usages are swept away. In Mr. Dunlop’s interesting volume, no less than 297 of these usages are specified as then rife.[245] A much improved tone is observable[Pg 379] amongst commercial travellers than some fifty years ago, when the modern Ramazzini wrote:—

Well fed, riding from town to town, and walking to the houses of the several tradesmen, they have an employment not only more agreeable, but more conducive to health than almost any other dependent on traffic. But they destroy their constitutions by intemperance; not generally by drunkenness, but by taking more liquor than nature requires. Dining at the traveller’s table, each drinks his pint or bottle of wine; he then takes negus or spirit with several of his customers, and at night he must have a glass or two of brandy and water. Few commercial travellers bear the employ for thirty years—the majority not twenty.[246]

And Mr. Samuelson, in his History of Drink, sees traces of an improving tone amongst the operative classes; of which, amongst other things, the dissociation of benefit and other clubs from taverns, is an index.

There are fewer now to sneer at the efforts for a moral regeneration. It may be doubted if Mr. Barham would to-day gloat over his lines in the Milkmaid’s Story:—

Mr. David has since had a ‘serious call,’
He never drinks ale, wine, or spirits, at all,
And they say he is going to Exeter Hall
To make a grand speech, and to preach, and to teach
People that ‘they can’t brew their malt liquor too small.’
That an ancient Welsh Poet, one Pyndar ap Tudor,
Was right in proclaiming ‘Ariston men Udor!’
Which Means ‘The pure Element is for Man’s belly meant!’
And that Gin’s but a Snare of Old Nick the deluder!

Some of the finest writers of our time have exercised [Pg 380]their pen in describing the horrors of intemperance. Charles Kingsley writes:—

Go, scented Belgravians, and see what London is. Look! there’s not a soul down that yard, but’s either beggar, drunkard, thief, or worse. Write anent that! Say how ye saw the mouth o’ Hell, and the twa pillars thereof at the entry—the Pawnbroker’s shop o’ one side, and the Gin-palace at the other—twa monstrous deevils, eating up men and women and bairns, body and soul. Look at the jaws o’ the monsters, how they open and open and swallow in anither victim and anither. Write anent that!... Are not they a mair damnable, man-devouring Idol than ony red-hot statue of Moloch, or wicker Magog, wherein the auld Britons burnt their prisoners? Look at those bare-footed, bare-backed hizzies, with their arms round the men’s neck, and their mouths full o’ vitriol and beastly words! Look at that Irishman pouring the gin down the babbie’s throat! Look at that rough of a boy gaun out o’ the pawnshop, where he’s been pledging the handkerchief he stole the morning, into the ginshop, to buy beer poisoned wi’ grains of paradise and cocculus indicus, and salt, and a’ damnable, maddening, thirst-breeding, lust-breeding drugs! Look at that girl that went in with a shawl on her back, and cam’ out without ane! Drunkards frae the breast!—harlots frae the cradle!—damned before they’re born![247]

Mr. Ruskin has said that

drunkenness is not only the cause of crime, but that it is crime; and that if any encourage drunkenness for the sake of the profit derived from the sale of drink, they are guilty of a form of moral assassination as criminal as any that has ever been practised by the bravos of any country or of any age.

Even Carlyle could doff his mannerism to state his conviction that gin is the most authentic incarnation of the infernal principle that is yet discovered. Cobden and Bright have hurled at the whole business their unmeasured anathemas.

[Pg 381]

But probably no individual has done more, within living memory, to educate and stimulate the national conscience than the late George Cruikshank. From the first (says Mr. Thompson Cooper)[248] he had shown a strong tendency to administer reproof in his treatment of intoxication and its accompanying vices. Instances of this tendency are to be found in his Sunday in London, The Gin Trap, The Gin Juggernaut, and more especially in his series of eight prints entitled The Bottle; the latter of which had eminent success, and was dramatised at eight theatres in London at one time. It brought the author into direct personal connection with the leaders of the temperance movement. As he, moreover, became a convert himself to their doctrines, he was one of the ablest advocates of the temperance cause. Of late years, Mr. Cruikshank turned his attention to oil-painting, a branch of art in which he so far educated himself as to make his pictures sought after by connoisseurs.

The great work by which this Hogarth of the nineteenth century will be remembered in the present connection is a large picture entitled The Worship of Bacchus, which he exhibited to the Queen at Windsor in 1863. An engraving of this picture has been published in which all the figures are outlined by the painter, and finished by Mr. H. Mottram. The painting itself is now the property of the nation.[249]

In addition to individual endeavour, countless societies, national, provincial, and local, have been formed throughout the country to stem the evil; prominent among these are the Church of England Temperance Society, with her Majesty the Queen as patron, and the entire bench of bishops with numerous other leaders of society as its vice-presidents; the National Temperance[Pg 382] League; the United Kingdom Alliance; the United Kingdom Band of Hope; the League of the Holy Cross, with many other denominational societies; the Order of Good Templars; the Rechabites; whilst the neophytes of Blue Ribbonism are legion.

Further than these, every species of counter-attraction is being furthered.[250] Education is made possible, nay, compulsory, almost to all. Better dwellings are being provided for the poor, and solid security for their savings. Recreations are being provided for the masses; and a vastly improved system of sanitation. The medical world[251] is giving the subject its close attention, and as the result of its labours of close observation and analysis, the fallacies of a past and less scientific age are being dethroned; and as a tangible outcome, temperance hospitals and homes are being erected.

And whilst philanthropy is engaged in one direction in reforming the drunkards, in another it is busy in reforming the drinks. Thus, Mr. Edward Bradbury writes in Time:—

If Sir Wilfrid Lawson, and his fervent followers, would accomplish a substantial reform in the drinking habits of the United Kingdom, let them turn their zeal to the villanous compounds which audaciously counterfeit Scotch whiskey. Such spirits as are issued from this ancient Oban Distillery conduce to ‘good spirits.’ [Pg 383]The influence of honest Scotch whiskey tends to joviality and generosity, instead of violence and murder; to good temper and amity instead of violence and blows. Bacchus by the ancients was regarded as the god of harmony and reconciliation. There are many poisonous pretenders to Scotch whiskey; and it is when fusel-oil masquerades as pure spirit that the evil comes. The licensed victualler who dispenses such abominable stuff ought to be treated as one of the criminal classes. It is liquid lunacy, fluid ferocity, distilled damnation, akin to that compound which Cassio drank in Cyprus, of which

‘Every cup is unbless’d, and the ingredient is a devil.’

Much of the drunkenness which disgraces our civilisation is due to ‘doctored’ drink. Alfred Tennyson was incensed by this reign of adulteration when he wrote those impassioned lines in his poem Maud:—

‘And the vitriol madness flushes up in the ruffian’s brain,
Till the filthy by-lane rings to the yell of the trampled wife,
And chalk and alum and plaster are sold to the poor for bread,
And the spirit of murder works in the very means of life.’

The quantity of ‘vitriol madness’ which unprincipled dealers push into the market, and which is sold cheaply to the unscrupulous proprietors of garish dram-shops to be disposed of dearly enough to deluded customers, is at once great and glaring. I wonder the Temperance party do not use their earnestness in the cause of reforming the drink, so that when the poor man wants whiskey he gets it, and not turpentine and fusel-oil and amylic atrocities; or when the doctor orders the sick woman port wine she is not imposed upon by a fraudulent decoction of logwood. Our ancestors, wiser in their generation, appointed ‘ale-tasters,’ who did their duty without fear or favour. Why cannot ‘spirit-tasters’ be introduced in our day? Or, why cannot whiskey come within the limits of the Food Adulteration Act? The quantity of bad whiskey made in Great Britain is amazing. To use the word ‘whiskey’ is an outrage of the term. ‘Patent spirit’ is the Excise description for this fluid, which is made by a special apparatus, known as the Coffey Patent Still, from maize, rice, damaged barley, &c. Malting would be too costly, so this material is converted into starch and saccharine by a process of vitriol. It is then passed through the Coffey Still by only one process, and boiled by steam instead of[Pg 384] fire. The patent spirit is ostensibly sold for blending purposes, and for cheapening finer spirit. Some of these cheap whiskies are as combustible as that Bourbon spirit of which a man once partook, and found so inflammable that—blowing his nose directly afterwards—he found his pocket-handkerchief in flames. Such whiskey, they say in the States, kills dead at ten paces, and no human being drinking it ever lives to pay his debts.

Still, intemperance, like a myriad-headed monster, rears its hideous head, and the usual thirty millions sterling in the shape of taxation rolls into the lap of the reluctant Chancellor of the Exchequer. Reluctant, for so they would have us understand their attitude towards their gains from a nation’s indulgence. A comparatively recent Chancellor, Sir Stafford Northcote, in his budget speech, 1874, remarked:—

If the reduction of the revenue derived from spirits be due to other causes; if it should be due to a material and considerable change in the habits of the people, and increasing habits of temperance and abstinence from the use of ardent spirits, I venture to say that the amount of wealth such a change would bring to the nation would utterly throw into the shade the amount of revenue that is now derived from the spirit duty.

Nearly a century ago, Sir Frederic Eden, in his State of the Poor, observed:—

For government to offer encouragement to ale-houses, is to act the part of a felo de se. Nor ought the public ever to be lulled into an acquiescence by the flattering bait of immediate gain, which ere long they would be obliged to pay back to paupers, in relief, with a heavy interest.

Half a century before, the historian Smollett (v. 15) had remarked:—

[Pg 385]

After all it must be owned that the good and salutary effects of the prohibition were visible in every part of the kingdom, and no evil consequence ensued except a diminution of the revenue in this article [spirits], a consideration which ought at all times to be sacrificed to the health and morals of the people.

And nearly half a century before Smollett, John Disney (magistrate and divine) had written:—

I deny the assertion that the revenue of ye crown will really be impaired by prohibiting tipling & drunkss.... 3 parts in 4 of the pore families in this kingdom have been reduced to want chiefly by haunting Taverns or Ale-houses. Especy labouring men, who very often consume there on the Lord’s day what they have gotten all the week before, & let their families beg or steal for a subsistence the week follg.... Now I suppose you will grant me that as the No. of poor & ruined families encreases in a nation, the Prince that governs must find a proportionable decay in his Revenue. On the other side, all such laws duly executed as keep men by sobriety tempce & frugality in a thriving condition, do most effectually provide for the happiness of the people & for the riches of the Prince.[252]

But there are symptoms of a decline in this source of revenue. A leading London daily paper has lately thus adverted to this momentous menace:—

Official statistics go far to confirm the triumphant claim of total abstainers that the consumption of strong drink is falling off at a rate not distasteful to the philanthropist, but suggesting grave reflection to a Chancellor of the Exchequer. The receipts from beer, wines, and spirits have been estimated in all recent budgets at nearly thirty millions sterling a year, if we add to the excise the customs duties derived from foreign spirits; and, as this amount is considerably more than a third of the entire revenue, any causes that impair its growth or make it decline are of serious importance to the nation. That the revenue from excise is not increasing, but is actually falling behind, despite the change from a malt tax to a beer duty, is indisputable. That temperance habits have made prodigious strides in the last few years is also beyond question. Do the two changes stand to each other in the relation of effect to cause? In other words, is less of beer, spirits, wine consumed [Pg 386]because there is a want of inclination, or is it from want of ability? Partly from the latter influence, there is little doubt. Total abstinence is popular with many because it is an aid to health; with others because it is the handmaid of morality and thrift; self-denying persons practise it because it sets an excellent example; and multitudes like it as it is economical.... In so far, then, as the need for retrenchment is one cause of reduced consumption of strong drink, a change in habit and in fashion might be expected to come with increased material prosperity. The nation ‘drank itself out of the Alabama difficulty’ in the exuberant days which saw Mr. Lowe at the Exchequer; and it may yet again take to tippling so heartily as to enable Mr. Childers to dispense with a portion of the income-tax. At present, however, there is not the faintest symptom of this; all the indications point in the other direction. Temperance and total abstinence march from one conquest to another, blessed by bishops, clergy, and even princes of the Christian Churches, patronised by doctors, eulogised by hard-headed men of business, and gathering in everywhere crowds of enthusiastic converts. The movement is sweeping over the nation in an unchecked tide, acquiring force as it goes, and inaugurating not change merely, but social revolution.... Such changes, needless to repeat, bode no good to the English Chancellor Exchequer, who has to sit idly contemplating the gradual running dry of more than one tributary rill, which he is at his wits’ end to replenish from other sources, or to replace by a more reproductive substitute. Perhaps it is too soon to moralise over the passing event, but it will be impossible long to postpone action, and to rest content with mere discussion. If the change we now witness is going to be permanent, that is, if the crusade on behalf of abstinence from strong drink is to proceed with redoubled success next year, Mr. Childers will not only he unable to make any allowance for an elastic growth of the excise receipts, but he will have to prepare for a diminution.

Had the coming event cast its shadow before? Isaac Disraeli long ago predicted a return to sobriety. We shall probably (said he) outlive that custom of hard drinking, which was so long one of our national vices.

[Pg 387]

Everyone devoutly longs for such a terminus ad quem. But were the former days really better than these? Could we devoutly desire a return to any social era of the past? A pre-Elizabethan dietetic millennium is a retrospective mirage. It was a phantom of the historian Camden, which the elder Disraeli, and others in his wake, have endeavoured to stereotype. Granted, that nations, like individuals, are imitators; granted, that the English in their long wars in the Netherlands learnt to drown themselves in immoderate drinking, and by drinking others’ healths to impair their own; still it is not true that in those wars they ‘first’ learnt such excess, and it is not true that ‘of all the northern nations, they had been before this most commended for their sobriety.’ For at least one thousand years before the Netherland wars, Britain had been stigmatised for intemperance. Gildas had called attention in the sixth century to the fact that laity and clergy slumbered away their time in drunkenness.

S. Boniface (a native of Britain) in the eighth century had written to Cuthbert respecting the vice of drunkenness: ‘This is an evil peculiar to pagans and our race. Neither the Franks, nor the Gauls, nor the Lombards, nor the Romans, nor the Greeks, commit it.’ We have already noticed that the conquest of the English by the Normans has been attributed especially to the then prevailing habit of intemperance: that in the following century John of Salisbury could write: ‘Habits of drinking have made the English famous among all foreign nations.’ How then could the Elizabethan town-wit, Tom Nash, write: ‘Superfluity in drink is a sin that ever since we have mixed ourselves with the Low Countries is counted honourable; but before we knew their lingering wars, was held in that highest degree of hatred that might be’?[253]

[Pg 388]

No. It is a long story; and three centuries do not compass it. But a better tone is beginning to prevail, which augurs well for a time when abuse being buried in the hansard dust of oblivion, man may not hesitate to use the gifts which a gracious Father has given His children to enjoy.


[206] England in the Eighteenth Century, i. 479.

[207] See Pratt: Flowering Plants, vol. v. Also, Larwood: History of Signboards.

[208] John Byrom’s Journal, published by the Chetham Society.

[Pg 389]

[209] For the condition of the working classes, and the pauperism of the time, see Defoe’s Giving Alms no Charity.

[210] In 1713, Dr. Browne, Bishop of Cork, delivered a discourse to the clergy of his diocese, against drinking in remembrance of the dead, which he published in pamphlet form. This was followed by a second pamphlet, wherein he refuted charges that his critics had made, to the effect that he was actuated by a spirit of hostility to the memory of William III., it being well known that the Bishop was an extreme Tory, and he had laid particular stress on the prevalent custom of drinking to the ‘Immortal Memory of William III.’ This again excited considerable adverse criticism; and in 1716 Dr. Browne launched forth a somewhat exhaustive Discourse of Drinking Healths. But though he handles his theme very ably, the tract is no more than a concise epitome of the arguments and authorities used by the Puritan writers of the previous century. It has been stated that the bishop did not make many converts by his brochures: that, on the contrary, the custom of drinking to William’s ‘immortal memory’ increased, and that to the original form of the toast was tacked on a scurrilous expression indicative of the extreme contempt in which the author of the diatribes was held.[211]

[211] The writer has made use of his own little work entitled The History of Toasting.

[212] Roger North’s Life of Lord-Keeper Guildford.

[213] Parliamentary Report on Drunkenness, p. 173.

[214] English Commons Journal, xxii.

[215] Selected from the speeches cited in the valuable Prize Essay of Dr. Lees.

[216] Selected from the speeches cited in the valuable Prize Essay of Dr. Lees.

[217] James Smith: The Upas in Marybone Lane.

[218] Mrs. Delany’s Correspondence, vi. 158 (cited by Lecky).

[219] Macaulay’s Essay on Walpole’s Letters to Sir Horace Mann.

[220] Scott: Memoirs of Swift.

[221] A Treatise upon the Modes, 1715.

[222] See Thackeray: English Humourists.

[223] Robert Druitt, Report on Cheap Wines.

[224] Roberts, Social Hist. of Southern Counties.

[225] By Joseph Haslewood.

[226] From The Fortress, a drama, 1807.

[227] Macaulay, Comic Dramatists of the Restoration.

[228] It may be mentioned that in the seventeenth century drunkenness was prescribed by some physicians. ‘Quant au profit qui en peut venir (i.e. drunkenness), outre les diarrhées et renversemens d’estomac qui en procèdent, et qui font souvent de très-utiles purgations (ce qui est en partie cause que quelques médecins prescrivent ces débauches une fois le mois),’ &c. &c. (Dialogue par o. Tubero [i.e. Mothe Le Vayer], édit. Francfort, 1716, 12mo, tome ii. p. 158.)

[229] Lees. Prize Essay.

[230] Huish, Memoirs of George IV.

[231] Ib.

[232] Dr. Dawson Burns.

[233] Dawson Burns.

[234] This account is taken from Lees, Prize Essay.

[235] Lees, Prize Essay.

[236] Winskill. Temp. Reformation.

[237] Samuelson. Hist. of Drink.

[238] Ellison; The Church Temperance Movement.

[239] The impulse to this action was given by the clerical memorial to the bishops on intemperance in 1876, in which Prebendary Grier had the principal hand. The memorial was signed by 13,584 of the clergy.

[240] I am indebted for this summary to Mr. Winskill’s Comprehensive History of the Temperance Reformation.

[241] Emerson. Complete Works, i. 273.

[242] G. A. Sala. Paris Herself Again.

[243] H. T. Buckle. Miscellaneous and Posthumous Works, vol. i. pp. 159, 160.

[244] The Great Metropolis, 1836.

[245] John Dunlop. The Philosophy of Artificial and Compulsory Drinking Usage, 1839.

[246] C. T. Thackrah, Effects of the Principal Arts, Trades, and Professions, p. 83.

[247] Alton Locke, 1850.

[248] Men of the Time, 1875.

[249] A life of this remarkable man is preparing for the press, undertaken by a well-known scientist and author, who was his personal friend and admirer.

[250] This subject is well handled by W. J. Conybeare in his Essays Ecclesiastical and Social, pp. 429, &c.

[251] The names of such as Dr. B. W. Richardson, Sir H. Thompson, Sir A. Clarke, Dr. Carpenter, Dr. Edmunds, Dr. Kerr, Dr. Heslop, Dr. Crespi, will at once recur.

[252] Disney, View of Ancient Laws against Immorality and Prophaneness. Camb. 1729.

[253] T. Nash, Pierce Pennilesse, 1595 (cited in I. Disraeli’s Curiosities of Lit.).



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