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through several of these in a day, and very often becomes in consequence an habitual drunkard; and when this happens, he is necessarily obliged to leave a profession which requires a steady hand and quick eye. Many such cases occur throughout the country. Lately, an individual of this occupation, although he had had liquor at several different occasions, felt his craving for drink only more sharpened; he stopped at a public house in the way home, drank freely, attempted to walk to his own residence, but, overcome by liquor, he fell a sacrifice to inebriation, probably from the collapse that ensues after hard drinking, which incapacitates the frame from encountering severe cold; be that as it may, in the morning, some passengers discovered first a knife and handkerchief lying on the road, and in half a mile farther on, they found the unfortunate man lying on his face on the road side, the turf somewhat torn and loosened all around, as if he had had a mortal struggle before his exit from life.
This essay is intended to be confined to the artificial and conventional connexion that exists here between liquor and courtesy, etiquette or business, and therefore the circumstance of drinking to excess on pretence of mere refreshment or as diet, cannot, perhaps, be textually introduced; the drinking at nightly clubs may therefore be considered as excluded from our present inquiry, as a mere refreshment. But, so far as the inhabitants of this country consider a process of drinking strong liquor necessary to the enjoyment of conversation, or of literary and friendly intercourse, so far they are under the dominion of mere artificial usage. It is quite a mistake to suppose that the excitement of liquor is necessary for these purposes, and few other nations take this view of rational and intellectual sociableness. Yet, for ages, the Scotch have connected severe drinking with their most sacred enjoyments. Allan Ramsey, in the Gentle Shepherd, when the respected and beloved landlord was restored to his tenantry, represents Glaud as saying,
" I'll yoke my sled, and send to the neist town,
And bring a draught of ale, baith stout and brown;
On the summit of Arthur's Seat, a hill near Edinburgh, the rising of the sun on May morning is hailed by disgraceful orgies, worthy of the most vicious nations of antiquity. A friend, at my request, was at the trouble of a visit to this scene
of depravity, and communicated the result in the following letter. “My dear Sir,
“Edinburgh, “At your request I beg to send the following narration, to add to your fast-swelling catalogue of Scottish Drinking „Usages.
• Though not necessarily connected with the use of ardent spirits, but taking its origin from a more noble and purer source, the custom of paying a visit to Arthur's Seat, on the morning of the 1st of May, to welcome the approach of summer, must now nevertheless rank high among the list of usages where whisky is the grand cause and chief promoter of anything like amusement or hilarity among the common people. The custom of celebrating the return of May-day' is universal throughout Scotland, and like all other customs here, the drinking of whisky forms a prominent feature in it. In Edinburgh the day has been in use to be celebrated from time immemorial by a visit to Arthur's Seat, and anciently the practice was simply for a party of friends to take lunch of some kind or other, or more frequently curds and cream (thence called “May milk”) at the top, accompanied with a song, or even in some cases with a psalm or hymn; and in that way to hail the dawn of the first summer-day, with every feeling of admiration and enjoyment that the occasion ought to inspire.
“In modern times, however, this harmless practice has degenerated into such a scene of debauchery and drunkenness, that no respectable family or individual engages in it, and nothing is anywhere to be seen on the hill but crowds of men and women of the lower and lowest classes in society, vying with each other, not in mirth and in song, but in swearing and drinking. About four o'clock in the morning, before sun-rise, a long line of persons, male and female, is seen crossing the King's Park, and ascending the ridge of the hill. These have, most of them, either before this time taken large quantities of whisky, or bring it along with them to drink on the hill; others trust for their supply to those who take jars and baskets with bottles to sell by the road-side; and thus no one who is disposed to drink need experience any difficulty in obtaining as much as he pleases of what has strangely enough been called Mountain Đew.' Under the influence of these potations, it need not be wondered at, if the laudable object of their visit be entirely forgotten, and superseded by oaths and cursing, and rude quarrelling and rioting; and that that 'glorious orb,' chief of all the works of nature, instead of casting
its first rays on a throng of mortals filled with praise and thankfulness, rises to shed its light on a scene of swearing and depravity, exhibiting not the features of humanity, but the worst characteristics of brutality and vice. Nothing prevails but disorder and dissipation, and shouts of laughter, caused by the floundering of some one more drunken than his fellows; and one would almost imagine that the assembled crowd were there like a company of heathens to worship the sun through the instrumentality of drunkenness, not certainly as Christians to admire the glories of creation, and be filled with gratitude to Him who causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good.
“In particular we observed one man very drunk, ascending the steep near the summit, his face and clothes dedaubed with mud and dirt, for the hill was still wet in some places with recent rains; he could scarcely stand, and stumbled at every step, making nearly as much progress backwards as forward, amid the jeers and laughter of the crowd, who threw stones and divots at him as he came, while the bagpipes played a merry air. At length he mounted the apex of the hill, where he was met by a man with a bottle and a glass, to add more fuel to the fire of his intoxication, and render him a still greater object of derision to the bystanders. Other young tradesmen we remarked, dressed in their Sunday suit, who had evidently been at church the day before (which was the Sabbath-day,) and who had adjourned apparently from their midnight orgies to end the scene of their debauchery on the hill. It was melancholy to witness the number of young women of the town, many of them tipsy, gaily dressed in their holiday clothes, climbing the steep with labouring step, and calling to their wicked partners for 'some more whisky ’“another glass '—to impart its momentary strength. These persons occupied a prominent place in the picture, and by their conduct and manners added not a little to the appearance of depravity and vice which it was fitted to convey.
“The number of people on the hill during the course of the morning could not be less than from five hundred to seven hundred, among whom we did not remark a single person who seemed to have come there to enjoy the beauties of the morning, or to take delight in admiring the objects of nature. They continued to arrive till about half-past five, when a heavy shower of rain dispersed the crowd, which would in all likelihood have continued to increase but for that circumstanc as on the way home we saw many more bending their steps in the direction of the hill.
“On the whole, a more deplorable instance of the prostitution of a pure and harmless custom to the purposes of vice, through the instrumentality of whisky, could scarcely be witnessed in any age or country; and I do hope that the effect of your exertions may be to banish that article from our land and from society, which is the promoter and fosterer, if not the main-spring and fountain-head, of nearly all that is inhuman and mischievous in the world.
“I am, my dear sir, “To John DUNLOP, Esq.”
"Yours sincerely." “ P.S. I have shown the above account to a friend who accompanied me, and he authenticates it in every particular.”
I learnt afterwards, in conversation with my friend, that he and his companion were necessarily witness to other transactions of so gross a kind on this occasion, as that they cannot be here related.
I have sometimes been requested to say a word touching nightly drinking clubs, which are so rife in our large towns : these, one of my informants thus characterises in language, which I do not judge too strong for the occasion. He says, “ They may be looked upon as schools of intemperance, where it is taught scientifically; where young men advance from one step to another, till they take the final degree of confirmed inebriate. Language cannot express the evil resulting from these worthless associations."
In the villages similar assemblies occur, though perhaps less stated than occasional; with a regularity and a punctuality, nevertheless, that are very prejudicial to good morals. Another informant states somewhat like what follows, with regard to the place where he lives. It is very customary for a band of good fellows to arrive, after some preliminary maneuvring, within the walls of a favourite grog shop. Of an afternoon, two or three of these seem to meet as if by chance, at no great distance from the door of the public house; this knot is sufficient to attract the attention of other thirsty comrades, on whom it acts as a magnet. These worthies have little domestic enjoyment, and less intellectual resource; and are therefore droning about, with hands in their breeches pockets, ready to be drawn within the sphere of any vitiating attraction. They therefore advance till the party attains its usual numerical strength. The chit-chat of the day at first occupies their discourse, a sordid craving all the while alluring them to the stale and fetid chamber of inebriation; an important point is
hit upon in the course of their shallow confabulation. One would suppose that surely an interesting topic emerging, might lead to some sharp logical gladiatorship, and cause them to burnish their intellectual weapons; but no : this circumstance is merely made the excuse for attaining to what they really would be at—the gratification of sensual propensity : some one of the party suggests the propriety of settling the debate over a glass-a hint which is most cordially acceded to; in they go; toddy is joyfully ordered; the dispute or disputes assume various aspects, among renewed tumblers ; hours are misspent in the midst of vociferation and intoxication ; at midnight they go home, with heads hanging like the bulrush, to complain of head-ache next morning, and to suffer a further degradation and diminution of what intellectual faculty remains.
It is astonishing with what sophistical effrontery the Scotch peasantry set forth the benefits that are derived from social drinking. They approve of the genial license of the rustic change-house, as much as Dr. Johnson did that of the city tavern. The following sketch, by Wilson, the ornithologist, seems almost got up for the benefit of the publicans; it represents the assumed miseries of domestic life, in powerful contrast with the pleasures of a favoured gin-shop scene, prepared, as it were, to suit the occasion.
WATTY AND MEG.
Keen the frosty winds were blawing,
Deep the snaw had wreath'd the ploughs,
Daunert down to Mango Blue's.
Wi' Pate Thamson o' the hill,
Haith we'se ha'e anither gill."
And sae mony neibours roun'
Syne ayont the fire sat down.
Cheese, and stoups, and glasses stood;
Ithers quietly chow'd their cude.
A' the rest a racket hel',
Sat and smoket by himsel'.
Drank his health and Meg's in ane,
Pledg'd him wi' a weary grane.