Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/787

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ment followed as a matter of course. Every poison-vice is progressive, and, soon after the introduction of a new stimulant, the majority of individual consumers will find that the habit "grows upon them," as our language aptly expresses it. The direct effect of the poison, hereditary influences, etc., induce a growing depression of vital energy, which, in turn, leads to an increased demand for the means of stimulation. This want is met in a twofold way: 1. By a direct increase of the quantity or strength of any special stimulant; 2. By the progress from a milder to a more virulent poison of a different kind.

In Prussia, Scotland, Denmark (as well as in some of our Eastern States), actual drunkenness (i. e., intoxication followed by riotous conduct) has apparently decreased, while the revenue register shows an undoubted increase in the per capita consumption of alcoholic liquors. This does not prove that our topers are growing less vicious, but that they are growing more practical; intermittent rioters have become "steady hard-drinkers." In the Calmuck steppes, whose barrenness has forced the inhabitants to preserve the primitive habits of their ancestors, a little grain is cultivated here and there in the river-valleys, and during the winter migration the herders carry bags full of rye from camp to camp, and bake bread whenever they are short of meat or milk. But at the return of the harvest-season they have both meat and bread, and utilize the surplus of last year's grain by brewing it into a sort of beer, and indulging in a grand carousal—i. e., they get beastly drunk, but only once a year. The Bacchanalia and Symposia of the ancient Greeks were monthly revels in honor of some favorite deity; and even during the middle ages many of the poor Scotch lairds brewed ale only when they expected a guest. To get "as drunk as a lord" was the highest ambition of poor Hodge, but an ambition which he could not often gratify, though he sometimes stinted himself in bread in order to drink his fill—

"At ember-eves and holy ales."

By-and-by, however, wages improved, and ales became more frequent and more decidedly unholy, though perhaps less obstreperous, since continual practice enables our topers to "carry their liquor" as discreetly as the Baron of Bradwardine. The most respectable hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, allows its male employés a daily pour boire of six quarts of wine; Dr. Buchanan, of Manchester, speaks of English mechanics of the "better class" who take a glass of gin with every meal; and I am sure of understating the truth if I say that in the larger cities of Germany and North America every popular beer-shop has among its customers dozens of "regulars" who drink the year round a daily minimum of two gallons of lager-beer. The poison mania which attacked our ancestors in the form of an intermittent passion has grown into an insatiable hunger; the tempting serpent has become a strangling hydra.