Tag Archives: Binge-drinking

British binge-drinking, 1927 edition

27 May

Photo: Christopher Pledger, Daily Telegraph, 2009.

For at least the past decade or so, the British press has been indulging in one of its periodic bouts of hand-wringing at the drinking habits of young women. Proving that there is nothing new under the sun, certainly not newspapermen’s morbid fascination primly disguised as moral crusade, is this bourgeois-epating story from 1927:

Forty cocktails a day “without turning a hair” is the new all-British record, both for flappers and confirmed drinkers.

An anonymous English girl of “good social standing” turned the trick.

Hitherto, 12 to 15 cocktails a day has been considered a very respectable average for the energetic flapper but the Rev. W. H. G. Shapcott’s assertion that he has met a 17-year-old girl who boasted she could get outside of 40 of them between breakfast and breakfast, has caught the imagination of all London and the news and editorial columns of the newspapers blazon her prowess.

The Rev. Shapcott, who is Metropolitan secretary of the church army, says he cannot see the greatness of her accomplishment, despite the editorial hullabaloo, and has refused to reveal the girl’s identity. He has said, merely, that  “she is a girl of good social standing and goes to the Riviera every year.”

“But she is not the only case,” he added, in an interview. “Girls are getting more and more into the cocktail habit. Dozens of them drink their 12 of 15 a day and think nothing of it. But the girl who boasted she drank 40 of them headed the list. When she said that that was nothing, and that the number didn’t turn her brain, I told her that it must be because she didn’t have any brain to turn.”

At this rate, cocktail drinking becomes of the expensive pastimes.

Forty cocktails a day represents a drinking bill of about $5,000 a year—or $15 a day. Forty Martinis, for instance, would represent about one and a half bottles of gin and three-fourths of a litre of French vermouth.

With these figures before them, certain speculative editorial writers are inclined to wonder whether the cocktail girl’s claims should not be classified with the English channel swim hoax.

— “English Girl Found Able to Drink 40 Cocktails Day”, Atlanta Constitution, 1 November 1927, p. 10.

Beastliness and binge-drinking

1 Aug

“There must be thousands of young girls in America at this day who know in their hearts that they have committed some action which they never would have committed but for that extra sip of cocktail, or home brew, insidiously thrust upon them. What thousands and millions perhaps, I might say, of young men and middle-aged men and old men there must be who must know that their ills, physical, moral, and commercial, can be traced to the same cause. A pitiful weakness of will, which permitted “a glass too much”. There are aspects of things which our squeamish sensibilities dislike looking at, but it is only facing them squarely that their full horror can be realized. […] Think mercilessly of the results of intoxication. They are filthy. Imagine, girls, the man that you love—imagine, boys, the girl you reverence, staggering up to bed—vomiting, as the French lady described it—all over the floor—too degraded to care or notice—saying foolish things, and then in bed snoring heavily—and the next day with an evil-smelling breath and a headache, trying to pretend it is indigestion! Or at least if they have become too hardened for these untoward horrors to occur, think of the pain of having to watch the gradual moral and physical degradation, the thinning hair, the haggard or bloated faces, the unreasonable tempers! Apart from all the moral aspects, think of the vulgarity of it all—how cheap! how ill-bred—how primitive! Why not determine to abate just a little—one cocktail—or one drink and be satisfied with that. At present it is like pigs at a trough, everyone swallowing as much as he can get. A man already unsure of himself said to the hostess near me when she asked him if he would not have another cocktail, “I have had quite enough, but in these days it seems a pity to leave anything!” What a line of reasoning for a grown man to use! At fashionable country club dances, I am told where drink at fabulous prices can be smuggled in, by the end of the evening, when the débutantes  have had countless oranges juices reinforced by synthetic gin, is it any wonder that on the way home in the motors conduct quite unbecoming to ladies and gentlemen occurs? A bride of two weeks, who had been decently brought up, came in tears to her mother when I was there, telling her that while on their wedding journey, at a party given by some of her rich relatives, in the place where they were—her young husband had become so terribly drunk that he to be carried upstairs and put to bed, in a strange house, amidst everyone’s laughter—and of her shame and humiliation. The mother consoled her, and said she must not grieve so; she must forgive him and be sympathetic and overlook it, this once! Then I interfered! I held forth in rage and frightened the poor lady! It is this palliation, this “overlooking” which encourages a disgusting weakness which will become a frightful stain upon this great nation, if the social leaders do not arise to a sense of their duties and a realization of their power to stop it. In every home town where the Cosmopolitan penetrates, I should like to feel that, after reading this article, the fashionable leaders of the local society would get together, and formulate a plan that social ostracism shall be the face of any member of their company who is ever seen under the influence of liquor; that they will not have unlimited cocktails served before dinner—only one for each person, and that it shall be considered low and vulgar for any girl to drink a cocktail at all!”

Elinor Glyn, “You Americans are Making Beasts of Yourselves”, Cosmopolitan, vol. 72 (1922), pp. 75-8 (p. 77).

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