Tuesday 24 February 2015

Gruel-swollen paupers

GIN TEMPLES – The expense in fitting up gin-shop bars in London is almost incredible, everyone one vieing with his neighbour in convenient arrangements, general display, rich carving, bass work, finely-veined mahogany, gilding, and ornamental painting. The carving at one ornament alone in the Grapes gin-shop, Old-street-road, cost £100; the workmanship was by one of the first carvers in London. Three gin-shops have been lately fitted up in Red Lion-street, at an expense, for the bar alone, of upwards of 2000l. Times was when gin was only to be found in by-lanes and blind-allies – in dirty obscure holes, ‘ycleped dram-shops; but not gin is become a giant demi-god – a mighty spirit, dwelling in gaudy gold-bespattered temples, erected to his honour in every street, and worshipped by countless thousands, who daily sacrifice at his shrine their health, their strength, their money, their minds, their bodies, their wives, children, sacred home, and liberty. Juggernaut is but a fool to him, for the devotees of Juggernaut, though they put themselves into the way of being crushed to death beneath his chariot wheels, are put out of their misery at once; but the devotees of the great spirit Gin devote themselves to lingering misery; for his sake they are content to drag on a degraded nasty existence – to see their children pine, dwindle and famish, to steep themselves in poverty to the very lips, and die at last poor, sneaking, beadle-kicked, gruel-swollen paupers! In these temples of the great spirit Gin may be seen maudlin, unwashed multitudes, the ancient and the infant of a span long, old men and maidens, grandsires and grandams, fathers and mothers, husbands, wives and children, crowding, jostling, and sucking in the pardons of the spirit which the flaunting priestesses dole out to them in return for their copper offerings. – Sunday in London

The Times, 5 February 1834