Beer Street and Gin Lane

Did you know two famous engravings of the eighteenth century come with poems? These two artistic creations by William Hogarth would eventually lead to the Gin Act of 1751. Let’s take a moment to talk about “Beer Street” and “Gin Lane.”

Beer Street and Gin Lane

About the two engravings

William Hogarth (1697 – 1764) made the two engravings when London was in a crisis. Just like other major British cities. All because of what was described as the Gin Craze. It was special that the crisis was overcome by the party that was partly to blame for it. It was the British parliament who encouraged the people to buy more spirits in 1689. Spirits that were made in Great-Brittan. Not in overseas countries. This would help the industry flourish. The import of French wine would eventually come to an ending, so it was believed.

Thus said, the people started drinking spirits from their own country. It was such a great success. With the success, came the disturbing scenes. Scenes as portrayed by Hogarth. The new crisis wasn’t one that came from the import of goods from abroad, but the fight against alcoholism.

Hogarth made these engraving as a protest and he wanted to show the need for change. For each engraving, he wrote a poem. The first one, about Beer Street, shows a somewhat happy place. In the other street, it was mayhem. On Gin Street, things got out of hand.

The message that Hogarth brought forward: don’t drink spirits, drink beer.

Beer Street

Beer Street

William Hogarth

Beer, happy Produce of our Isle
Can sinewy Strenght impart,
And wearier with Fatigue and Toil
Can cheer each manly Heart.

Labour and Art upheld by Thee
Succesfully advance,
We quaft Thy balmy Juice with Glee
And Water leave to France

Genius of Health, thy grateful Taste
Rivals the Cup of Jove,
And warms each English generous Breast
With Liberty and Love!

Gin Lane

Gin Street

William Hogarth

Gin, cursed Fiend, witg Fury fraught,
Makes human Race a Prey.
It enters by a deadly Draught
And steals our Life away.

Virtue and Truth, driv’n to Despair
Its Rage compells to fly,
But cherishes with hellish Care
Theft, Murder, Perjury.

Damned Cup! that on the Vitals preys
That liquid Fire contains,
Which Madness to the heart conveys,
And rolls it thro’ the Veins.

Alcoholism?

Was this a flame against alcoholism? Well, partly. Hogarth ruled out the possibility that beer could lead to alcoholism.

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