Monday, 28 November 2011

Upmarket binge drinking

From the same issue of Prospect:

Lord Byron writes to Thomas Moore from Piccadilly, 31st October 1815:

Yesterday I dined out with a largeish party, where were Sheridan and Colman, Harry Harris and his brother, Sir Gilbert Heathcote, Kinnaird and others, of note and notoriety.  Like other parties of the kind, it was first silent, then talky, then argumentative, then disputatious, then unintelligible, then altogethery, then inarticulate, and then drunk.  When we reached the last step of this glorious ladder, it was difficult to get down again without stumbling; and to crown all, Kinnaird and I had to conduct Sheridan down a damned corkscrew staircase, which had certainly been constructed before the discovery of fermented liquors, and to which no legs, however crooked, could possibly accommodate themselves.  We deposited him safe at his home, where his man, evidently used to the business, waited to receive him in the hall.

Amanda Foreman's biography of Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, makes it clear how much drinking was endemic to the culture of the ruling political classes in the early nineteenth century, and particularly the Whigs, of which Sheridan was a leading member.  Is it still true today, I wonder?

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