Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Honeysuckle and the Bee II



Is this a book for me?

Evergeen Books 1940 edition, pp 43-44


Depressed, and meditating once more on the imbecilities of our licensing system, I passed along the road, with a garage on my left, and a glimpse of lake through the old cottages and the new cinema site on my right. Once more I was astounded at my country, and at the brewers, and at the Tory Party. It was a Conservative Government which introduced a Licensing Act which arranged that "redundant" licenses should be abolished; that brewers (and why on earth should they own inns and tie them to their own brand of beer, good or bad, paint out the old signs and scrawl the names of their ales - one is called 'Shrimp' - across the old fronts?) should surrender an old license if they wanted a new one, and that benches of "Licensing Justices" (usually and deliberately packed by the most revolting type of whining, nonconformist teetotallers ever conceived of by the author of Hudibras) should have the power of deciding what should be shut, what should be open and when - people who regard a harmless village pub as rather worse than a brothel, and immesurably worse than a factory. "The people have the power of altering things," reply the blind worshippersof what is a nominally democratic system. "The people" is but a phrase; "the people" in France or Italy would make short shrift of anyone who attempted to take away their wine in return for giving them votes, i.e., the choice between one caucus nominee and another, each frightened of offending some small minority of cranks whose blinkered minds, on one issue alone, may swing an election one way or another, incidentally and in the mad manner of the Gaderene swine flinging the country into ruinous war, or disgraceful peace, or the loss of Empire or any other minor matter simply because they cannot bear the idea of not interfering with their neighbour's private habits. They have not dared to go to the lengths that they and their insane female accomplices went in America. Try England with Prohibition and it will go back to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dr. Johnson and Cobbett as it did in 1914 and during the General Strike, throwing off its back all the English-hating Welsh from Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell to Oliver Cromwell (nee Williams) and the rest. But take away from the ordinary Englishman only some of his liberties, remove his landmarks only in part,and, good-tempered and patient as he is, he will merely assemble where and when he is allowed to assemble, lament the passing of the "Old Ship" or the "Burlington" at Chiswick (which dated from Agincourst, was frequented by Thames ferrymen and had probably never seen a man drunk in our day), complain the new pubs are not what the old ones were, that they are more crowded, the managers from the north are not the same as the landlords from one's own locality, and that it is abominable to have to drink quickly at ten o'clock, but that "they're all the same - the ------- politicians " - and they stand it and console themselves with memories of horses and cricket, characters long dead and campaigns long over.



Hudibras - text (from exclassics.com)
Hudibras - To the reader (exclassics) : includes biography

Hogarth -
Plate IX ( Hudibras Catechized) of Twelve Large Illustrations for Samuel Butler's Hudibras




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