Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pickwick Papers: Temperance Converts

Pickwick Papers: Temperance Converts

This is the seventh of a short series of images I created especially for fascinating daily blog Spitalfields Life, which had featured me (and my Oranges & Lemons print) in May last year.

I had mentioned to 'the Gentle Author' that half of one chapter of the Pickwick Papers was set in Brick Lane and so we conceived the idea of a collaboration of sorts - the GA would post an edited form of Chapter 32 and I would provide the illustrations (8 in toto).

Mr. Pickwick's servant Samuel Weller, and Sam's father Tony are at the Brick Lane Branch of the United Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association. After excessive amounts a tea the meeting begins with a(n hilarious) report on fresh converts to the cause of teetotalism.

REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE BRICK LANE BRANCH OF THE UNITED GRAND JUNCTION EBENEZER TEMPERANCE ASSOCIATION. Your committee have pursued their grateful labours during the past month, and have the unspeakable pleasure of reporting the following additional cases of converts to Temperance.

H. WALKER, tailor, wife, and two children. When in better circumstances, owns to having been in the constant habit of drinking ale and beer, says he is not certain whether he did not twice a week, for twenty years, taste “dog’s nose,” which your committee find upon inquiry, to be compounded of warm porter, moist sugar, gin, and nutmeg (a groan, and “So it is!” from an elderly female). Is now out of work and penniless, thinks it must be the porter (cheers) or the loss of the use of his right hand, is not certain which, but thinks it very likely that, if he had drunk nothing but water all his life, his fellow workman would never have stuck a rusty needle in him, and thereby occasioned his accident (tremendous cheering). Has nothing but cold water to drink, and never feels thirsty (great applause).

BETSY MARTIN, widow, one child, and one eye. Goes out charing and washing, by the day, never had more than one eye, but knows her mother drank bottled stout, and shouldn’t wonder if that caused it (immense cheering). Thinks it not impossible that if she had always abstained from spirits she might have had two eyes by this time (tremendous applause). Used, at every place she went to, to have eighteen-pence a day, a pint of porter, and a glass of spirits, but since she became a member of the Brick Lane Branch, has always demanded three-and-sixpence (the announcement of this most interesting fact was received with deafening enthusiasm).

HENRY BELLER was for many years toast master at various corporation dinners, during which time he drank a great deal of foreign wine, may sometimes have carried a bottle or two home with him, is not quite certain of that, but is sure if he did, that he drank the contents. Feels very low and melancholy, is very feverish, and has a constant thirst upon him, thinks it must be the wine he used to drink (cheers). Is out of employ now and never touches a drop of foreign wine by any chance (tremendous plaudits).

THOMAS BURTON is purveyor of cat’s meat to the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs, and several members of the Common Council (the announcement of this gentleman’s name was received with breathless interest). Has a wooden leg, finds a wooden leg expensive, going over the stones, used to wear second-hand wooden legs, and drink a glass of hot gin-and-water regularly every night – sometimes two (deep sighs). Found the second-hand wooden legs split and rot very quickly, is firmly persuaded that their constitution was undermined by the gin-and-water (prolonged cheering). Buys new wooden legs now, and drinks nothing but water and weak tea. The new legs last twice as long as the others used to do, and he attributes this solely to his temperate habits (triumphant cheers).

I have two of the 4 converts - Betsy Martin (although I have misspelt it Betty!) and Thomas Burton. Plus the ingredients for a warm glass of 'dog's nose' which I have to confess to be curious to try!

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