Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
 
Gin
By Bernard Mandeville (1670–1733)
 
NOTHING is more destructive, either in regard to the health, or the vigilance and industry of the poor, than the infamous liquor, the name of which, derived from Juniper in Dutch, is now by frequent use and the laconic spirit of the nation, from a word of middling length shrunk into a monosyllable, intoxicating gin, that charms the inactive, the desperate and crazy of either sex, and makes the starving sot behold his rags and nakedness with stupid indolence, or banter both in senseless laughter, and more insipid jests; it is a fiery lake that sets the brain in flame, burns up the entrails, and scorches every part within; and at the same time a Lethe of oblivion, in which the wretch immersed drowns his most pinching cares, and, with his reason, all anxious reflection on brats that cry for food, hard winter’s frosts, and horrid empty home.  1
  In hot and adust tempers it makes men quarrelsome, renders them brutes and savages, sets them on to fight for nothing, and has often been the cause of murder. It has broke and destroyed the strongest constitutions, thrown them into consumptions, and been the fatal and immediate occasion of apoplexies, phrensies, and sudden death. But as these latter mischiefs happen but seldom, they might be overlooked and connived at, but this cannot be said of the many diseases that are familiar to the liquor, and which are daily and hourly produced by it; such as loss of appetite, fevers, black and yellow jaundice, convulsions, stone and gravel, dropsies and leucophlegmacies.  2
  Among the doting admirers of this liquid poison, many of the meanest rank, from a sincere affection to the commodity itself, become dealers in it, and take delight to help others to what they love themselves, as whores commence bawds to make the profits of one trade subservient to the pleasures of the other. But as these starvelings commonly drink more than their gains, they seldom by selling mend the wretchedness of condition they laboured under whilst they were only buyers. In the fag-end and outskirts of the town, and all places of the vilest resort, it is sold in some part or other of almost every house, frequently in cellars, and sometimes in the garret. The petty traders in this Stygian comfort are supplied by others in somewhat higher station, that keep professed brandy shops, and are as little to be envied as the former; and among the middling people, I know not a more miserable shift for a livelihood than their calling; whoever would thrive in it, must in the first place be of a watchful and suspicious, as well as a bold and resolute temper, that he may not be imposed upon by cheats and sharpers, nor out-bullied by the oaths and imprecations of hackney coachmen and foot soldiers; in the second, he ought to be a dabster at gross jokes and loud laughter, and have all the winning ways to allure customers and draw out their money, and be well versed in the low jest and railleries the mob make use of to banter prudence and frugality. He must be affable and obsequious to the most despicable; always ready and officious to help a porter down with his load, shake hands with a basket-woman, pull off his hat to an oyster wench, and be familiar with a beggar; with patience and good humour he must be able to endure the filthy actions and viler language of nasty drabs, and the loudest rake-hells, and without a frown or the least aversion bear with all the stench and squalor, noise and impertinence that the utmost indigence, laziness, and ebriety can produce in the most shameless and abandoned vulgar.  3
  The vast number of the shops I speak of throughout the city and suburbs are an astonishing evidence of the many seducers that, in a lawful occupation, are accessory to the introduction and increase of all the sloth, sottishness, want, and misery which the abuse of strong waters is the immediate cause of, to lift above mediocrity perhaps half a dozen men that deal in the same commodity by wholesale; whilst among the retailers, though qualified as I required, a much greater number are broke and ruined, for not abstaining from the Circean cup they hold out to others; and the more fortunate are their whole lifetime obliged to take the uncommon pains, endure the hardships, and swallow all the ungrateful and shocking things I named, for little or nothing beyond a bare sustenance, and their daily bread.  4
 
 
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