Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

This way of partaking of toast and sentiment, and swallowing hot tea and strong politics, is decidedly injurious.

Lastly, temperance and soberness cannot be more strongly inculcated by the divine than they are by the doctor. There is not one eminent man who has written for years who has not traced more than half the diseases of humanity to the gorging propensities of man. At a good school a little fellow who devours his tarts in secret, or who makes too much of his school treat, gets marked down as a glutton, and is treated accordingly. One excess is as bad as another : every meal which is superfluous is a sin; it is a sin against that bountiful Providence which supplies enough for all, but too much for none. That man who eats enough for two, robs one ; and punishment most surely follows. If we wish to see how odious gluttony and excess are to a highly intellectual mind, we have only to read that passage in Dante's great work wherein gluttons are punished, and, moreover, to remember the feast of Dives and the starvation of Lazarus ; and then we shall, like Socrates, EAT TO LIVE, and not LIVE TO EAT.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

HE great temperance movement, which was one

in the right direction (for we English were desperately hard drinkers), has not only taken away

our reproach, but it has added another word to the English language. From it arose, we believe, that extra branch of temperance men, those who would go to extremes -the teetotallers. Their name is the word of which we speak, and possibly no one knows its derivation. We have

eard it explained in various ways. Webster calls it a cant word, formed in England from the first two letters of “temperance” and “total,” signifying thereby total temperance. We doubt whether he is right. Trench, in his English, Past and Present, does not mention the word. Other people have said that one who stammered invented it: "t-t-t-total abstinence,” he asserted, was what he wanted; but this looks very apocryphal. One asserts, after some consideration and study of words, that it is a misspelt word, that it means teatotal abstainer; that is, an abstainer to whom tea would be the very strongest stimulant. We do not make words by adding a repetition of a letter to strengthen them, nor should we say that a man is dee-dead if he is quite defunct. But the stupid, vulgar, odious word is there : no one can understand it; every scholar must abhor it. Scholars cannot coin words, nor remove them : for fifty years or so the ungainly term will defile our language, and then die out, as hundreds of cant words have already done. Other scholars thus explain, in their own fashion, the word Teetotal :- It is simply the word total written with two initial letters—ttotal, ffarranton, &c.—a common practice in the counties which formed part of the old Danelagh, or where the Danes, as in Lancashire, held the land. The provincials sound the first t slightly, and hence the printers and reporters made it into a separate syllable. The word was so used before the time of Edward IV.

It is curious that a set of common enthusiasts should have chosen so meaningless, and yet so appropriate a name ; but it is characteristic of the English that they did so. Binding themselves under that one foolish but very distinctive appellation, they went to work with a will, and achieved wonders. Probably few modern movements ever did so much real good as teetotalism. Its professors, it is true, shot a great deal lower than their mark ; but they reached something. Their success soon intoxicated them more than the spirits which they had renounced. They began to learn chemistry—at least as much of it as served their purpose ; and they attracted a number of medical Balaams, who went out in great force, and, much more faithful than the original prophet, cursed the

F

enemy up-hill and down-dale. Wine was bad, strong drink was destruction; moderate men were worse than drunkards ; and that Government which would not prevent the sale of intoxicating liquors was an accomplice with the devil, a wicked and false Government altogether. Finally, drink, and drink alone, was the cause of robbery, wrong, looseness, murder, and all the sins which the Ten Commandments forbid.

Sensible men saw in this only foolish exaggeration ; others a vicious folly, which would neutralize the good ; but philosophers saw in it that kind of utter absurdity which almost all great ideas carry. “ All the Sciences have their chimæra” (their dream), says the author of Pensées Ingénieuses, " after which they run, and which they are never able to catch ; but they pick up by the way other things very useful. If Chemistry has its philosopher's stone, Geometry its quadrature of the circle, Astronomy its longitudes, Mechanics its perpetual motion, it is impossible to find them all out, but it is very useful to seek them.” Perhaps also it may be useful to try to turn us all into total abstainers, but we very well know that that is impossible.

The teetotallers, in their endeavours to reform the world, needed a considerable amount of moral courage, nay, inore, of enthusiasm ; and they possessed both in an extraordinary degree. At the time they began their work of reformation the world looked upon drunkenness as a manly indulgence, rather indeed as an accomplishment than as a vice. As Dean Ramsay tells us, three and even four bottle men were not uncommon; and after a dinner it was thought a very mean thing of the host-if he did not, at least try to, send away his guests completely intoxicated. When the gentlemen joined the ladies they were always in a state of semi-intoxication ; and the ladies themselves indulged in a sly glass too ; for it is to be observed that women take their ideas of society from the men, and are never strong enough to reform or to lead it. The servants were as bad as their masters, and of course aped their betters, and the commonalty were given over to pot-house drinking, foolish and brutal sports, quarrels, and drunkenness. The real temperance movers were the literary men, Addison and Steele, who both got drunk themselves now and then, but who saw the folly and vice of the propensity, and who reformed society, if they did not quite mend themselves. From them and others a better taste and an abhorrence of the vice sprung up, and then, when it was time, this very Society itself, which was to sweep the Augean stables clean.

When the Society first formed itself, it took, as is not unfrequently the case, a wrong name. It was afraid to call itself a Sober Society, or the Sobriety Association ; but that is what it meant. It talked about temperance; but as that word applies as much to eating as to drinking, to bad language, dress, hot temper, and a dozen other things, our reformers had to spoil a word by restricting it to one

What we want is to see the whole of the sense restored. We do not want people only temperate, but, as the Catechism teaches us, sober, temperate, and chaste. But this was not the only mistake which the teetotallers

sense.

« VorigeDoorgaan »