Life in London

I have been writing recently about the Victorian Era and drinking, Charles Dickens and making fun of religion via booze vessels. A temperance movement was afoot in Dickens’ time. And though religion was an aspect of that movement, there had to be something else. And what that something was, was keeping me up at night.

It took longer than one would hope for me to look back from the Victorian Era. This landed me in the Georgian Era. Cities grew, urbanized, industrialized. And when that happened, people needed entertainment and excitement. They found sports and they found booze. The sporting man’s culture was born in England.

Now, more than just sitting in dank homey pubs, young men went out about town and lived it up. Sports were a big part of this night out on the town and on weekends. But to be sure, it wasn’t sports that they could get hurt doing or that they did themselves. Hunting foxes, dog fighting, and boxing were among those things that sporting men loved to enjoy. Namely, things they could bet on. The goal wasn’t just gambling on sports, it was drinking and gambling on sports and having camaraderie.

Perhaps the most glorious example of this is the book Life in London published in 1821. Corinthian Tom – man about town and dandy hosts his rube of a cousin Jerry in the city. The two engage in various hijinks and shenanigans, running afoul of police officers, zookeepers, nuns (i.e. prostitutes). Corinthian Tom treats his cousin to a winding of a night. They chase flashes of Lightning (gin) with other nails in the coffin (spirits and shots) and then have a damper (lighter drink) to pull the nails out of the coffin.

Men drank, bet on horses, met at taverns and clubs. But this era has its fingers in many current aspects of our leisure society. Though we may think of these lads about town as the old society men at their clubs and batmen and paying people poorer than them to beat the crap out of each other, this is a big step in the evolution of the pub. A large leap up the ladder in bar games and the development of sports. Gambling had its thrusters boosted during this era.

So when you throw a dart or hear the winner of the Kentucky Derby or shoot a game of pool, just know that you are taking part in this old tradition. So have a drink or four, call up a nun, put a few nails in your coffin, then dampen it the next day.    

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