“EXPLANATION.– In the fore-ground are three Seamen playing at cards, one of whom, by the archness of his countenance, appears to have an advantage, and seems desirous of betting with his Antagonist, who, by his clenched fist, is evidently losing: the third, from his gravity, seems to be doubtful of the result.
The Group to the right consists of two, apparently, Messmates, the one reading a letter with much satisfaction; while a Female is slily looking over the gun, listening to the contents, and seems, by her smiling, to enter into the full enjoyment of it. In the middle Group are represented two Seamen and their Girls dancing a reel; the Fiddler, supposed to be the Ship’s Cook by his wooden leg, is evidently groggy, from his having one eye closed, while the other is significantly employed: the principal Male Figure, who set to his Partner, has had more than his usual allowance of grog, being in the act of snapping his fingers, and literally reeling towards her: the younger Female and her Partner are no less interesting from their attitude.
On the left is a Sailor-Boy with a can of grog in his hand; his attention being wholly taken up with the Group dancing, occasions him to spill the liquor, which a Seaman underneath is eagerly catching. Near these figures, to the right, is seen a fair Damsel descending the ladders, and is received into the arms of her Admirer. Next to them appears a Sailor handing down a box, supposed to contain the wares of an Israelite, brought on board for sale, who, from his attitude and countenance, appears most anxious for their safety. The two figures behind the Jew are seemingly a Brother and Sister joyously meeting.
The Group near the quarter-deck-ladder represents an affray between two Females, who are jealous of each other, to the no small delight of the surrounding Seamen. On the quarter-deck-ladder is seen the flowing robe of a Female descending.”
“Observe how I step in the Line,
Though eight Quarts I have carried away;
O Bet! you will never be mine
If thus you get drunk every Day.
As drunk as a Piper thou art;
O tell me how could’st thou do so;
Thou wilt ne’er from the Ale-house depart
Till unable to walk, stand, or go.”
- Drunken Lovers by Thomas Rowlandson (1798)
In the eighteenth century as in any other, a trip to the local pub provided some escape from the monotony of working life, offering a chance for merriment and silliness, and – dangerously – the opportunity to take a cup too much and be persuaded into something a sober man wouldn’t entertain for a second.
One wintry weekend in 1791, this Manchester man was tempted to run over two miles completely naked in the pouring rain by the prospect of just five shillings – about £14 in today’s money – and, no doubt, the chance to prove his manfulness. As with many careless drunken wagers it had tragic consequences.
Lesson: don’t go running around nude in the snow tonight, folks!
“About eight o’clock on the stormy night of Saturday the 19th inst. a man was rash enough to undertake, for five shillings, to run naked, from a public house at Stayley-Bridge, near Manchester, to a mill in the neighbourhood, more than a mile distant, in consequence of another person in company observing that he would not go the distance, such a night as it was, for five guineas. Not returning in the course of two hours, some of the party went to search for him with a lanthorn, and found him perishing and speechless, about half a mile off, on his return, with a handful of meal husks, which were proof of his having been at the mill. Medical assistance was immediately procured, but he died presently afterwards. He was advised to stop all night at the mill, or to put on some cloaths that were offered to him, but refused, though he declared he had been nearly suffocated by the wind and rain. He has left a wife and five small children.”
- Derby Mercury, Thursday 1st December 1791
I love this news story from 1807, which throws some surprising light on how a Georgian prostitute/pickpocket might have gone about her business in a London pub. I wonder how many saw fit to actually swallow their earnings in an attempt to avoid detection? It certainly wasn’t a particularly successful ruse for this woman…
“A prostitute was brought from St. Clement’s watch house, charged with robbing a gentleman on Sunday night in the Strand, the Prosecutor not appearing, she was discharged. She retired to the Green Man public house in Bow-street, with some friends, where a man respectably dressed was sitting in a box, adjoining that in which she sat down, and this person putting his hand upon the rail, she endeavoured to get a ring off his little finger; afterwards, when he was holding a guinea carelessly on his finger, she snatched it off, put it into a glass of gin and peppermint, put it to her mouth, and endeavoured to swallow it, but the guinea stuck in her throat, upon which she took up a pot of porter that was near, drank a draft, and swallowed the guinea, to the no small amusement of a room full of people. She was taken before Mr. Read again, who ordered her to remain in custody.”
- Morning Chronicle, Tuesday 13th October 1807
- Detail from a tavern scene, Rowlandson’s Dr Syntax series
This is the best obituary I have seen in a long time. But I do wonder if Mr Falls would have been pleased or dismayed at the prospect of his drinking habits being immortalised in print and unearthed over 250 years later…
If the latter, sorry John.
“A few Days ago died in the Manour of Carrick near McGuire’s-Bridge in Ireland, in the 110th Year of his Age, John Falls, remarkable for having often drank two Quarts of Whiskey at a Sitting, and being afterwards able to walk home.”
- Caledonian Mercury, 5th August 1754
Quite straightforward, this print. The lesson: If you spend all night in ye tavern drinking and smoking, you’re going to end up with a stonking hangover (or ‘druncken siknes’) in the morning. People have known this for centuries, and yet still they persist…
- detail from ‘The Prodigal Son Sifted’ (anon) c1700