S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
It is said of Diogenes that, meeting a young man who was going to a feast, he took him up in the street and carried him to his own friends, as one who was running into imminent danger had not he prevented him. What would that philosopher have said, had he been present at the gluttony of a modern meal? would not he have thought the master of a family mad, and have begged his servants to tie down his hands, had he seen him devour a fowl, fish, and flesh; swallow oil and vinegar, wine and spices; throw down salads of twenty different herbs, sauces of a hundred ingredients, confections and fruits of numberless sweets and flavours? What unnatural motions and counter-ferments must such a medley of intemperance produce in the body! For my part, when I behold a fashionable table set out in all its magnificence, I fancy that I see gouts and dropsies, fevers and lethargies, with other innumerable distempers, lying in ambuscade among the dishes.
Nature delights in the most plain and simple diet. Every animal, but man, keeps to one dish. Herbs are the food of this species, fish of that, and flesh of a third. Man falls upon everything that comes in his way; not the smallest fruit or excrescence of the earth, scarce a berry or a mushroom, can escape him.
Wine heightens indifference into love, love into jealousy, and jealousy into madness. It often turns the good-natured man into an idiot, and the choleric into an assassin. It gives bitterness to resentment, it makes vanity insupportable, and displays every little spot of the soul in its utmost deformity.
Nor does this vice only betray the hidden faults of a man, and show them in the most odious colours, but often occasions faults to which he is not naturally subject. There is more of turn than of truth in a saying of Seneca, that drunkenness does not produce but discover faults. Common experience teaches us the contrary. Wine throws a man out of himself, and infuses qualities into the mind which she is a stranger to in her sober moments.
Men, forbearing wine, come from drinking healths to a draught at a meal; and, lastly, to discontinue altogether; but if a man have the fortitude and resolution to enfranchise himself at once, that is the best.
No man oppresses thee, O free and independent franchiser! but does not this stupid porter-pot oppress thee? No son of Adam can bid thee come or go; but this absurd pot of heavy-wet, this can and does! Thou art the thrall, not of Cerdic the Saxon, but of thy own brutal appetites, and this scoured dish of liquor. And thou pratest of thy liberty, thou entire blockhead!
When this vice has taken fast hold of a man, farewell industry, farewell emulation, farewell attention to things worthy of attention, farewell love of virtuous society, farewell decency of manners, and farewell, too, even an attention to person; everything is sunk by this predominant and brutal appetite. In how many instances do we see men who have begun life with the brightest prospects before them, and who have closed it without one ray of comfort and consolation! Young men with good fortunes, good talents, good tempers, good hearts, and sound constitutions, only by being drawn into the vortex of the drunkard, have become by degrees the most loathsome and despicable of mankind. In the house of the drunkard there is no happiness for any one. All is uncertainty and anxiety. He is not the same man for any one day at a time. No one knows of his outgoings or his incomings. When he will rise or when he will lie down to rest, is wholly a matter of chance. That which he swallows for what he calls pleasure brings pain, as surely as the night brings the morning. Poverty and misery are in the train. To avoid these results we are called upon to make no sacrifice. Abstinence requires no aid to accomplish it. Our own will is all that is requisite; and if we have not the will to avoid contempt, disgrace, and misery, we deserve neither relief nor compassion.
Intemperance is a dangerous companion. It throws people off their guard; betrays them to a great many indecencies, to ruinous passions, to disadvantages in fortune; makes them discover secrets, drive foolish bargains, engage in play.
1. It [the use of intoxicating liquors in ten years] has cost the nation [United States of America] a direct expenditure of 600,000,000 of dollars. 2. It has cost the nation an indirect expense of 600,000,000. 3. It has destroyed 300,000 lives. 4. It has sent 100,000 to the Poor-House. 5. It has consigned at least 150,000 to the jails and penitentiaries. 6. It has made at least 1000 maniacs. 7. It has instigated to the commission of 1500 murders. 8. It has caused 2000 persons to commit suicide. 9. It has burned, or otherwise destroyed, property to the amount of 10,000,000 of dollars. 10. It has made 200,000 widows and 100,000 orphan children.
Now, amongst the rest, drunkenness seems to me to be a gross and brutish vice. The soul has the greatest interest in all the rest, and there are some vices that have something, if a man may so say, of generous in them. There are vices wherein there is a mixture of knowledge, diligence, valour, prudence, dexterity, and cunning: this is totally corporal and earthly, and the thickest-skulled nation this day in Europe is that where it is the most in fashion; other vices discompose the understanding, this totally overthrows it, and renders the body stupid.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. lix.
Were there only this single consideration, that we are less masters of ourselves, when we drink in the least proportion above the exigencies of thirst; I say, were this all that could be objected, it were sufficient to make us abhor this vice, but we may go on to say, that as he who drinks but a little is not master of himself, so he who drinks much is a slave to himself. As for my part, I ever esteemed a Drunkard of all vicious persons the most vicious: for, if our actions are to be weighed and considered according to the intention of them, what can we think of him who puts himself into a circumstance wherein he can have no intention at all, but incapacitates himself for the duties and offices of life, by a suspension of all his faculties? If a man considers that he cannot, under the oppression of drink, be a friend, a gentleman, a master, or a subject: that he has so long banished himself from all that is dear, and given up all that is sacred to him: he would even think of a debauch with horror. But when he looks still farther, and acknowledges that he is not only expelled out of all the relations of life, but also liable to offend against them all; what words can express the terror and detestation he would have of such a condition? And yet he owns all this to himself, who says he was drunk last night.
As I have all along persisted in it, that all the vicious in general are in a state of death; so I think I may add to the non-existence of Drunkards, that they died by their own hands. He is certainly as guilty of suicide who perishes by a slow, as he that is dispatched by an immediate, poison.