Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Don't forget Hogarth's 'Beer Street'

In any MSM debate on alcohol, in addition to the mendacious consumption graphs exposed below (but repeated again today in the Times) , you are certain to see Hogarth's print 'Gin Lane' reproduced; you know the one - an inebriated slut with breasts exposed dropping her infant over a stair-edge. The MSM always seem to ignore the fact that Hogarth produced this as one of a complementary pair, and the other, 'Beer Street', was intended to show that getting merry on beer as opposed to gin was the healthy option; not that alcohol was bad, but that some alcohol was bad.

In Beer Street there is a hive of industry; new buildings are going up, built by ale-quaffing navvies; tradesmen carrying the marks of their trade enjoy a good laugh and a bit of slap-and-tickle - it's a celebration of our northern European English beer culture, long may it live. Wholesome. Healthy.

Both cartoons were produced in support of the Gin Act - an Act that sought to limit the damage done by the purveyors of cheap gin. Yes, we've been here before. In the 18th century we were still clever enough to realise the answer lay with restricting the supply of cheap gin, not with trying to stop the English drinking and having a bit of fun. Hogarth's message was simple - the problem wasn't alcohol, or its place in our lives, but cheap, irresponsible alcohol that poisons the feckless masses - the products of the multinational's research labs that produce cheap grain alcohol rainbow-coloured sweet drinks that appeal to the young, the stupid and those sans taste.

4 comments:

Newmania said...

Its a dramatic change in the availablity of narcotics that is a problem . The Temperance Movement is much mocked now but the sight of the working classes killing themsleves on Gin must have been horrifying .
It has modern echos but I digress, the same problem occurrs when you give whiskey to the Indians proverbially and that is why I cannot go along with the Libertarian calls for legal heroin and crack if thats what you are implying.
Things settle down eventually of course but Beer has been part of our culture since before this was a country .Pub signs date back to the dark ages when a sheaf of wheat was hung outside a brewing house.

At Hogarths time and certainly a little later Beer was a lot better for you than City water and was a weak brew by modern standards.

English Pensioner said...

We simply need to enforce the existing laws, what's happened to the old "Drunk and Disorderly" and before the the magistrate in the morning? OK the fine wouldn't be much, but the offenders would have spent a night in a cell, possibly with other drunks, and would probably miss a day's work.
Presumably it's because it now involves so much paperwork, the need for a police doctor and the involvement of the Crown Prosecution Service. We simply manage to make mountains out of molehills as always!

Demetrius said...

The gin of that time included a lot of very dangerous muck. We now have its equivalent around that is doing some of the damage. Much of the beer drinking then was through the day normal food/liquid intake safer than water. It was not intensive isolated specialist boozing.

Dick Puddlecote said...

All temperance and prohibition movements have been with us before and go in cycles. It's a constant battle.

In the past, they have been doomed to failure, but then they didn't have the poor quality of legislators we have now.