A Charge against Drunkards.

Original title page

This is one of those tracts which perhaps – just perhaps – goes a teeny bit “over the top”:

“That the Basaliske is the chief of Serpents: so of sinners the Drunkard is chief.. That Drunkennesse is of sins the Queen: as the Gowt is of diseases: even the root of all evill, the rot of all good. A sin which turns a man wholly into sin. That all sins, all beast-like, all serpentine qualities meet in a Drunkard, as rivers in the sea: and that it were far better to be Toad, or a Serpent, than a Drunkard.”

The only “imploiment” of Drunkards, Mr Younge goes on, is “to drink, drab, quarrel, swear, curse, scoffe, slander and seduce”, and in their “swinish swilling” they resemble “so many frogs in a puddle, or water-snakes in a pond.” They drink more in a night “than their flesh and brains be worth” and “more is thrown out of one swines nose, and mouth, and guts, than would maintain five sufficient families.”

Readers who like a drink or two may now be feeling a bit hot under the collar and/or sheepish. If so, let me warn them that the foregoing is taken from only the first branch of the Charge against Drunkards, and that there are fifteen other branches and a postscript still to come!

Branch 2 details the disgusting feats of a variety of heavy drinkers, such as the three women who came into a tavern in Fleet Street when Mr Younge was a boy, and proceeded to drink 49 quarts of Sack between them:

“Nor need it seem incredible, that common drunkards should drink thus: for they can disgorge themselves at pleasure, by onely putting their finger to their throat. And they will vomit, as if they were so many live Whales spuing up the Ocean; which done, they can drink afresh.”

Branch 3 refers to deaths through the effects of drink as the just wrath of God, and hints that stoning a few drunkards to death might bring the rest of them to repentance. Our author adds, cheerily, that “these drunken drones, these gut-mongers, these Quagmirists…..devour more of the Fat of the Land, than would plentifully maintain those millions of poor in the Nation”, and that therefore they ought not to be tolerated in any Christian Commonwealth.

Branch 4 complains that Drunkards are “swinish swill-bouls” who “make their gullet their god”, and branch 5 that “Drunkenness is like some desperate plague which knows no cure.” Branch 6, meanwhile, contains this gem:

“That these Agents for the Divel, Drunkards, practise nothing but the Art of debauching men; that to turn others into beasts, they will make themselves divels, wherein they have a notable dexteritie, as it is admirable how they will winde men in, and draw men on by drinking first a health to such a man, then to such a woman my mistris, then to every ones mistris; then to some Lord or Ladie; their Master, their Magistrate, their Captain, Commander, &c, and never cease, until their brains, their wits, their tongues, their eies, their feet, their sences, and all their members fail them; that they will drink until they vomit up their shame again, like a filthie dog, or lie wallowing in their beastlinesse like a brutish swine.”

Branch 7 tells us that when the Drunkard arrives in Hell, which he undoubtedly will, it is debatable “whether Judas himself would change torments with him”; branch 8, that “the Drunkard is so pleasing a murtherer, that he tickles a man to death, and makes him (like Solomon’s fool) die laughing; branch 9, that taverns are the meeting places where Drunkards congregate to hear the Devil’s lectures read, and where all sorts of Sinners gather together “as the humours do in the stomach before an Ague.” Branch 10 discusses the vain babbling, scurrilous jesting, and impious swearing of Drunkards, whose tongues “clatter like so many windows loose in the winds.” One can as easily persuade a stone to speak as a Drunkard to be silent:

“That one Drunkard hath tongue enough for twentie men; for let but three of them be in a room, they will make a noise, as if all the thirtie bells in Antwerpe steeple were rung at once; or do but passe by the door, you would think your self in the Land of Parrats. That is the propertie of a Drunkard to disgorge his bosome with his stomach, to emptie his minde with his maw.”

Branch 11 condemns the Drunkard for his disregard of authority and his scoffing at religion. “Tap-houses are the common Quagmires of all filthinesse,” our author says. Branch 12 further condemns Tap-Houses as “the Thrones of Satan”, and their owners as “traiters against God.” Remember, when next you visit your local hostelry, that it is the scene of “whoredoms and nameless abominations”, and that your friendly landlord is “the chief of all seducing drunkards” who waits for you, the customer, “as a spider would watch for a poor flie.” So says branch 13, at any rate. Branch 14 defends the poor wives of drunkards and ale-house keepers, for “drunkards are such children and fools….that a rod is fitter for them than a wife.” It warns the ladies that “they had better bee buried alive than so married.” Branch 15 says that to expect a Drunkard to reform “were to expect amendment from a Witch who hath already given her soul to the Divel”, and that “the drunkard is like some putrid grave, the deeper you dig, the fuller you shall finde him both of stench and horrour.” In the final branch, our author explains that he has so vehemently declaimed against drunkenness in order to keep men sober, “for vices true picture, makes us vice detest.”

The Postscript to this marvellous tub-thumping tract is a relatively dull, moralising, bible-quoting affair, which calls for extensive legislation against taverns:

“Considering the premises, if there were any love of God, any hatred of sin, any zeal, any courage, any conscience of an Oath in most of our Justices of the Peace, they would rather put down and purge out of their Parishes and Liberties, this viperous brood of vice-breeders and soul-murtherers (I mean Ale-house keepers) then increase them as they do, when any Common Drunkard, Cheat, or Witch may procure a Licence to sell drink, if they will but bribe some one of their Clerks. But if it be left to them (if his Highness himself do not by some other way redress it, as blessed be God he hath already begun the work in some Counties) I look never to see it mended, until Christ comes in the clouds.”

Anyone fancy a drink?