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THE WORKMAN'S WHIRLPOOL.
BY THE RIVERSIDE VISITOR. RE ECENT discussions—parliamentary and or other definite demonstration to that effect.
other—anent the proposal to introduce It is quite natural that it should be so, " the Gothenburg system” into England ; simply because less has been done in their recent remarks of various of the judges of case than in the case of any other section of the land upon the direct connection found society, to altogether remove, or favourably to exist between drunkenness and drinking modify the inducements, or rather enforcehabits, and crimes of violence ; recent com- ments, to drink, by which they are mentaries, upon statistics of drink consump- rounded. tion—these and other circumstances pointing Our daily duties taking us into the homes to the same conclusions, would seem to and haunts of the lower orders, we of necesindicate the approach of a special stirring of sity see a great deal of the drunkenness prethe public mind upon the great drink vailing among them, and of the sin, sorrow, question. Nor is this to be wondered at; suffering, and brutalisation that are its inevitthe question is one of such fearful import- able resultants. It is, therefore, not from any ance, that the contemplation of it must want of knowledge either of the nature or exercise the mind and sadden the soul of all extent of drink-created evil, that we say that who either love their fellow-men, or take any we never hear unqualified condemnation interest in the immediate or future welfare poured out upon the wretched drunkards of this great nation. By those who are dis- without feeling that some measure of injusposed to treat the drink question on leave tice is being done them. They are entitled, alone principles, it is often said that the not as a matter of sentiment only, but as a statements put forth as to the magnitude of matter of right, to pity and help, as well the national evil of drunkenness are sensa- as to condemnation ; if they are sinners tional. It is pointed out that but a gene- they are also victims. Have those who are ration or two back, a recognised standard of uttering their condemnation of the low-life a man's prowess was the number of bottles drunkard ever thoughtfully considered the he could “carry; ” that it was a common subject, ever attempted to search out the thing for those who were by courtesy styled genesis or trace the development of the drinkgentlemen to drink till they fell helpless ing habit? Have they under the table; and that drunkenness was
“Known the temptation, ere they judged the crime?" rather the rule than the exception, and was rather approved of than merely tolerated. We fancy not! It is a terrible thing to But now, continue those who use the argu- say, but as true as terrible, that a large ment we are dealing with, we have altered all proportion of the English poor are born this. The drinking habits once considered to drink, just as the Esquimaux are born creditable are now held to be shameful; and with a taste for food specially suited to an drunkenness, if even yet not altogether un- Arctic climate, or the Fijian to consider the known, is at any rate vastly diminished in shedding of blood not a crime but a glory, "society.” That such is the case none can and the killing of the decrepit, maimed, and admit more rejoicingly than do we; and we sick among themselves, a desirable practice. as readily admit that any statement that. The general customs of their country, and implied that no such particular reform in the their own immediate environments, physical, matter of drunkenness had taken place, sccial, and moral, make a love of intoxicating would be sensational. But that one of a drinks as natural in the English poor as a hundred drinking customs has disappeared love of wholesome food. They inherit a does not alter the facts that others pre-drinking strain by hereditary transmission, viously unknown have meanwhile been estab- and take a taint from the mother's breast. lished, and that increase in the consumption They are born in a vitiated atmosphere, one of intoxicating drinks has gone on in a ratio of the especial effects of which is in practice relatively greater than increase of population. found to be, to create thirst and a craving
That the more absolute and publicly appa- for stimulants, and are brought up in localirent forms of drunkenness have a tendency ties where all that should be best in social to gravitate more exclusively towards “the intercourse is interwoven with drinking lower orders” we can well believe, even customs. From the cradle to the grave they though we have never seen any statistical live, and move, and have their being in VII. N.S.
squalid regions wherein drink is king, holding being sold or clothes pledged for the wherehis court in palaces, while his victims are withal to purchase drink. housed—we cannot say homed-in noisome And as the father so is the mother, only a hovels; where one house in every dozen, moderate drinker—as such things are estiperhaps, is devoted to the drink traffic; and mated among the “lower orders.” In the instead of mind, drink is the standard of the words of a song popular among those orders man—the best of good fellows, he who is the she “likes a drop of good beer, she does," jolliest when in his cups, or the most liberal and consumes her daily pint or two. She in standing treat; the man of might, the one "likes her drops,” too-that is to say, drops who in the phraseology of drinking circles is of spirits, and notably gin-and takes them the greatest die-hard, that is to say, who can whenever “ the money will run to it.” But take more drink than others before reaching it is only on festive and special occasions the last or “dead stage of drunkenness. that she exceeds what she considers a sober Now, if we consider the moulding power of allowance. When she speaks of gin as our habitual surroundings, and the influences “comfort,” she honestly believes that it is so, arising out of them, and then bear in mind and flies to it as comfort in bodily pain or the nature of the surroundings of which we mental distress. have just been speaking, the wonder is that Such are the parents; such, or worse, have some living amid them are sober, not that probably been their parents, and if there is the bulk of them are drinkers, and many anything in the doctrine of hereditary transdrunkards. Drinking and drunkenness are mission, the child of such parents is almost induced and insisted upon by constitution certain to have a drinking taint in its blood, and custom; the “plentiful lack” of all and it is born into environments that, if escounteracting influence, and—if it is not a tablished solely to develop that taint, could misuse of the word—honour; for to drink is not be more effective to that end than as a held to be the proper, and social and manly matter of fact they are. It first sees the thing; to abstain, the unworthy and milk- light in a dirty and overcrowded room, of a soppy.
dirty and overcrowded house, in a dirty and To put the matter more clearly let us overcrowded street, forming part of a dirty adopt a more specific, a more individual and overcrowded rookery; a room that form of illustration. Let us take the case of has to serve as living and sleeping-room a child born in one of these localities it has for the parents and probably two or three become a fashion to speak of as rookeries— other children, and the only outlook from human rookeries. We will not take the which is upon a reeking backyard, where extreme circumstances that tens of thou- the chief object visible is the uncovered sands of such cases would afford. We will uncleansed tank that supplies the house put it that the father of the child is what with water, the mere look of which, not in his own social circle would only be to speak of its taste or odour, would afford accounted a drinking, not a drunken man. no mean excuse for a resort to other forms His habitual drinking is restricted to of drinkables. Its earliest breath is drawn average of two pots of ale or porter a day, a in a foul and drink-flavoured atmosphere; quantity which he and his neighbours hold for this is a time when all concerned to be very moderate, and of a quality they -except, of course, the infant-regard a suppose to be harmless, as they are quite liberal supply of “comfort" as a prime necesunaware of the fact that a recent analysis of sity. This same comfort being esteemed a one hundred and nineteen specimens of ale specific for most of the ills to which baby and porter sold over public-house counters flesh is more especially heir, the infant, when in various parts of London, disclosed the fact labouring under these ills, is freely drenched " that a person who drinks two quarts of with it; and though the excuse sometimes fourpenny ale or porter, consumes more put forward for an habitual drunkard, that he alcohol than is contained in half a pint of or she was weaned on gin, is spoken as a brandy or whisky.” He only" breaks out," grim joke, it is in the case of such a child as or goes "on the spree" at intervals of from we are here speaking of, merely an exag: two to three months, and then only remains geration, and not a great one, of a literal
on the drink” for from three days to a truth. week; and on these occasions instead of So much for the days of helpless infancy. beating his wife, smashing the furniture, and As the child reaches years of observation and ! destroying clothing, merely insists upon the remembrance, one of the sights with which wife drinking with him, and on furniture it becomes familiar is that of its father coming
home drunk. At first the spectacle makes stitutional predisposition to drink has been it cower and whimper, but by repetition it continuously fostered by his surroundings. loses its horror, and the boy of eight or nine When he gets employment he must pay a is found quite an accomplished hand in the “ footing” in drink. He is shown, and art of getting his drunken parent up-stairs, or responds to, friendship, in drink-in sharing, taking off his boots, or unloosening his collar, or "standing," a pot of beer or goes of spirits. or the like. Nor are the scenes of drunken- If he would be considered a good fellow, or ness witnessed within the walls of his own indeed not a bad fellow, he must drink. If home the only or the worst ones with which his work is of the casualty kind, he has often he becomes acquainted. Let us take a walk to go to the public-house as the most likely down the street in which his parents live— place to hear of chances of work; and has and this, be it marked, is no imaginary not unfrequently to bribe in drink to keep picture, is only such an one as in the dis- work when he has got it. If he is out of charge of our duties we have had to look employment, and with his family—if he has upon many a time and oft. It is a summer's one-is penniless and starving, sympathy for evening, and, wrought upon by the heat, the him is shown in drink. For one who would combination of evil odours to which the in- think to ask him to share a meal, a score habitants have become acclimatised would would invite him to “have a glass,” or join strike upon a stranger as highly poisonous, them in the drinking of the pot wherein they would probably induce a sensation of faint- “ wish him luck.” This mode of treating ness in him, and suggest something spirituous men who are out of work is one of the most by way of antidote and sustainment. The pernicious in the whole wide range of drinkgin palaces at either corner are full, and the ing customs. It is not merely that it keeps noise proceeding from them proclaims that men loafing about public-houses when they the rival beershops almost facing each other should be looking for, and might be finding, in the middle of the street are literally as work. When such hard times are upon a well as metaphorically driving a “roaring" man, the bad drink does its bad office upon trade. At numbers of open windows—both him more rapidly and certainly than it would ground and upper-in the private houses do in times when he was in a position to men and women are seated drinking, the obtain a sufficiency of food. There is window-sills serving them as resting-places drunkenness and drunkenness. The knowing for their pots and glasses. A more numerous in such matters discriminate the thing into section than these have turned out of the four leading forms-leg drunkenness, head houses and are seated on the pavement, drunkenness, dead drunkenness, and mad some on chairs or stools, others on the bare drunkenness; and drinking “ upon an empty flags. Like their neighbours at the windows, stomach "generally leads to this last and they have their pots and glasses beside them, worst form of the malady. It is by the mad and are engaged in the general business of form that the hard-up workman is usually drinking. Children are to be seen passing overtaken, when well-meaning friends, their to and fro with cans and bottles, while quite good intentions turned to evil practice under a host of them are disporting themselves in the perverting influences of a baneful custom, the gutter. Some of these occasionally re- have “ treated” him not wisely, but too well
. ceive a mark of parental or friendly notice in The man goes home mad drunk; his wife, the shape of a gracious permission to “ have made irritable by hunger perhaps, meets him a sip;" and it is no very unusual thing for a with reproaches; and there results one of child to be permitted or encouraged to sip those deeds of savagery such as our newsuntil it becomes intoxicated, and by its wild papers constantly teem with, upon which and senseless gambols makes sport for its judges indignantly comment, and which the elders, amongst most of whom such a pro- legislature has in vain tried to suppress by ceeding is simply regarded as “an excellent penal enactments of increasing severity. In merry jest.”
vain, too, will be all continued efforts, legisWhen one brought up among such scenes lative or other, to grapple with this and of drunkenness as these reaches man's estate, the thousand and one other evils resulting he finds himself surrounded by drinking cus- from drink, unless they are founded upon toms that really make up a formidable social some method that recognises and deals at institution-an institution that it would re- large with those social customs and physical quire considerable moral courage upon the and material surroundings which as naturally part of any one to disregard, and that is irre- and necessarily lead to drinking as does cause sistible to any one in whom an original con- to effect.
The poor themselves seem to have a sort among whom drinking is most rise, a chief of dim consciousness of the deep-rootedness feature and law of social life. We have met of the evil among them, and of its being a some who profess to regard these customs to-be-expected result of their environments. lightly and laughingly, to see a comic side in We have spoken of their saying about chil- them, and hold the plea of irresistible cusdren being weaned upon gin, and in the tom as the merest excuse of willing drunkards. same way they will speak pityingly of any Such views we need scarcely say are as especially habitual drunkard as poor old erroneous as they are mischievous or unborn-drunk ;” and if one of the born-drunk charitable, though they are doubtless natural species is greeted with “What, drunk again !" enough to those--a tolerably numerous body he (or she) will probably answer, “No, it is nowadays -- who either cultivate or ape the same old drunk !” And in their case cynicism, or those who agree with Tennyson's such an answer would have a saddening northern farmer that degree of literal truthfulness in it, for one who
“The poor in a loomp is bad." in these circles comes to be ranked among the born-drunks will in all probability fre- None who have had long or extensive exquently be drunk—that is, never perfectly perience among the poor, or have thoughtsober—for months at a stretch. The whole fully considered their condition, will need to tone taken on the subject is to the effect be told, or hesitate to believe, that the drinkthat the drunkenness is the misfortune, not ing customs prevailing among them, and into the fault, of the drunkard; that it comes to the midst of which they are born, are as him just as any other disease or affliction powerful to enmesh as they are tragical in might do. It is of course among those who their results. are native and to the manner born, that the Although the crusade against drink has direful effects of the ring of drinking cus- had so little of success to cheer it on, the toms by which the poor are surrounded are good fight is still continued, and we would most extensively seen; but their deadly respectfully suggest to the soldiers of this power, as a moral maelström, is perhaps most holy war that a part at least of their strength strikingly shown by the manner in which they should be directed against these customs of drag down others, who, by the chances and which we have been speaking. If the drink changes of life, are drifted within the circle demon is to be conquered, the outworks of of their influence. All do not succumb; his stronghold must first be carried. That the better influences of past times give some these are, in a great measure, the material of them sufficient strength to resist the in- and social surroundings of the classes among draught of the whirlpool. But many, sorrow- whom the evil is most prevalent, and to fully, many go down, falling to rise no more ; whom it does the most injury, there can and in the whole range of ills that befall poor be no doubt. And to us it seems there humanity, there is perhaps no more painful can be as little doubt that the evil can sight than that presented by a descent of this only be dealt with through the surroundings. kind. The doomed know and feel that they In the aggregate these surroundings become are being engulfed, and in their weak way the conditions of existence to those born struggle against their fate; but the suction and bred under their influences, and it is a of the evil customs is too strong for them, law of human and social, as well as of all and they are drawn from depth to depth of other organisms, to adapt themselves to the drunkenness.
conditions of existence. The surroundings We are not concerned here to dwell upon making up the conditions in this case have the horrors resulting from drinking; the directly and indirectly tended to foster drinkenormous amount of crime, want, and misery ing habits, and the natural result has been that may be undoubtedly set down as drink- that those subjected to the conditions have created. They make themselves but too un- as a body come to exhibit drunkenness as a mistakably felt in our national life, are but social characteristic. If, then, there were too well-known to all who ever give a thought substituted surroundings tending to sobriety, to such matters. Our present purpose
to to the extent of such changes sobriety try to throw some ray of light upon the would follow-in time; for the processes of genesis of the greatest of all our social evils; social adaptation, though sure, are from their to endeavour to show how largely it is the nature slow. Of the poor, as at present result of pernicious customs that have been situated, it may truly be said that allowed to deeply imbed themselves in our
" 'Tis life for which they pant, social life-to become, indeed, to those
More life and better that they want.”
WAKE ye, oh! wake thro’ the echoing wood,
Sweet birds with songs that are blitlier than laughter !
Flushes and mantles each dim forest raster!
They who once wandered thro' Eden's bright bowers ?
Ost as ye woke by the temple's fair towers ?
Shining in beauty far o'er the lone mountain,
Fresh as the crystal light thrown from the fountain !
List’ning and loving your sweet songs before me.
When the long grass shall wave silently o'er me !
Sweetest of all where our dear dead are sleeping-
Rising thro' bright ivy-wreaths round them creeping-
Knoweth a care for the fast-coming morrow;
Eyes that have long closed for ever on sorrow.
This your glad song o'er the low graves before us !
When the dark winter of death shall pass o'er us!
Sweet birds with songs that are blither than laughter !
Flushes and mantles each dim forest raster!
ROBINA F. HARDY.