Posted by Roger Boylan on Monday, January 23, 2012
Of all the drinking cultures I'm familiar with, and they are legion, England's is the booziest, not in the sense of actual amounts consumed but as a cultural phenomenon, one that celebrates intoxication, one--as an article in a recent issue of The Economist points out--refined and exalted by the upper, not working, classes. "Do you drink?" Jennie Jerome's American father asked her upper-class English suitor, Lord Randolph Churchill. "Of course I drink, man," snapped Lord Randolph. "I'm a gentleman." From The Economist: "Outside London, ritualized heavy drinking arrived not just in pamphlet form but also in the shape of returning sons as men of influence. One story . . . involves a cleric and two lawyers in Yorkshire. Sitting in an alehouse, the trio 'began to be merry' in a manner that started with a faux-Latin competition and ended with the cleric's penis hanging out of his trousers while one of the lawyers burned it with his pipe." Ouch. What drunken semblance-of-rational-though provoked that, I wonder? An urge for mortification of the flesh? Sudden self-disgust? Conflict between church and state? Any of the foregoing will do, washed down with several pints of Yorkshire's best.