Friday 19 June 2009

William Cobbett on the Evils of Drink

I came across this yesterday, from William Cobbett, an early 19th-century writer in England, in a short work called Cottage Economy:

‘It must be evident to every one, that the practice… must render the frame feeble and unfit to encounter hard labour or severe weather… Hence succeeds a softness, an effeminacy, a seeking for the fireside, a lurking in the bed, and… all the characteristics of idleness… [Drinking] fills the public-house and makes the frequenting of it habitual, corrupts boys as soon as they are able to move from home, and does little less for the girls, to whom the gossip of the [drinking place] is no bad preparatory school for the brothel. At the very least, it teaches them idleness.’

The surprise is that Cobbett is not writing about the evils of drinking alcohol, but the evils of drinking tea! In fact, he is at this point discussing how to make home-brewed beer, which is clearly perceived as a morally superior drink to tea.

[I found this in Richard Keyes, Chameleon or Tribe? Recovering Authentic Christian Community (Leicester: IVP, 1999), 52.]

A brief Google search reveals that Cobbett’s Cottage Economy, first published in 1821, has been described as the original classic of self-sufficiency, which he viewed as the foundation of family happiness. It was written to instruct country labourers in the arts of brewing beer, making bread, keeping cows, pigs, bees, ewes, poultry, rabbits, and other matters.

Born in Farnham in 1763, and known for his wit and bulldog curmudgeonliness, Cobbett traveled between England and America preaching the virtues of practical self-sufficiency.


Anonymous said...

Hi Antony
Came across this great quote in another of Dick Keyes' books - True Heroism. He obviously has a liking for it - as well he might. It's fantastic!

Antony said...

Fascinating... Thanks Mark