John Jarret and Roaring Dick of Dover: Popular Attitudes toward Drinking in Seventeenth-Century England

John Jarret and Roaring Dick of Dover: Popular Attitudes toward Drinking in Seventeenth-Century England

Hailwood, Mark

Intersecting Disciplines: Approaching Medieval and Early Modern Cultures, Selected Proceedings of the Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies 2010 Multidisciplinary Graduate Student Conference 


Over the last decade early modern scholars have dedicated a noticeably increased amount of time to the study of drinking. Both historians and literary scholars have gone beyond a much older tradition that focused on the economic and social functions of institutions such as inns and alehouses to ask searching questions about the meanings of drinking practices and rituals to the people involved in them. They have turned their attention to exploring what contemporaries thought about who they drank with and the appropriate way to behave when drinking, a set of issues that have recently been labeled the “politics of company.” At one level, scholars such as the literary critic Michelle O’Callaghan and the cultural historian Phil Withington have begun to explore attitudes of seventeenth-century literary and civic elites toward drinking, revealing the strong influence on those attitudes of Renaissance humanist notions of civility.  The idea of a refined, civil approach to drinking has also been identified in the works of Ben Jonson by the literary scholar Stella Achilleos, who found in Jonson’s writings “an ideal set of rules for refined drinking, under which polite conversation and literary activity were exalted over riotous behaviour and excessive drinking.” Participants in such sociability were urged to “outwit” rather than “out-drink” each other. This moderate and controlled merrymaking was set against the excessive and prodigal sociability that Jonson elsewhere called “the wild anarchy of drink.”


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