THE LIFE AND SPORT OF THE INN by Michael Brander

THE LIFE AND SPORT OF THE INN

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Brander has imbibed his subject deeply -- the history of the English inn, which turns out to be of the same lineage as the tavern and the even older alehouse -- a place where the weary traveler could wet his parched and dusty throat. Tippling was well established by Roman times and thereafter neither the decrees of kings nor the stem injunctions of the Puritans could wean the populace from its beloved ale. The Puritans, heaven knows, tried and during their ascendancy coffee, tea and chocolate were introduced as non-alcoholic substitutes, the first tax was levied on home brew and the sports and recreations of the pub (cock-fighting, dice, billiards, bear-baiting, cards, ninepins, Maypole dances) were banned. Brander notes gloomily that such prohibitions had little effect on drinking but did manage to inaugurate ""the dismal Sunday afternoons which the English have endured ever since."" He relies heavily on the reports of travelers and tavern denizens -- Defoe, Smollett, Pepys, Boswell -- for candid ratings of innkeepers, alewives, brewers, ostlers, chambermaids, etc. Altogether it's clear that from Tudor times through the 19th century the tavern was the center of English life -- the one place where the poor and the gentry mingled freely. With the notorious exception of the Gin Age (when the five stages of drunkenness were described as ""Jocose, Morose, Bellicose, Lachrymose and Comatose"") the English seem to have been moderate and gregarious consumers -- though heaven help the occasional miscreant who tried to promote temperance. Brander sets it all down with appropriate jollity. Cheers!

Pub Date: March 10th, 1975
Publisher: St. Martin's