Category Archives: alcoholism

A 21-unit-a-day man

In the arms of Bacchus and Morpheus

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Dalrymple reminds us, was

an all-you-can-drink man.

He was a prodigious

bibber of claret

who suffered from delirium tremens, downing tincture of opium

by the pint.

Witnesses testified to his

morning shakes and sweats, which improved after the first laudanum of the day.

Coleridge’s unpleasant dreams were, Dalrymple believes,

the consequence of alcoholic excess. Is there any of us who has not tossed and turned after drinking too much, and dreamed vividly and disturbingly?

Australia’s fauxpology

The situation of the Aborigines in Australia, writes Dalrymple,

was and is tragic, and would still be tragic even had the settlers behaved from the first in the best possible or morally ideal fashion. (It is not in human nature that they should have done so, least of all in a rough-and-ready and very young frontier society.)

He points out that

there is no obvious or easy answer to the problem of a Stone Age people who come into close contact with a vastly superior material culture. Neither total assimilation nor preservation in what amounts to a living ethnographic museum is a complete or satisfactory solution; probably such a solution does not exist, which is the tragedy.


a blanket apology and the granting of group economic privileges is hardly the way to cultivate a sense of personal responsibility in a population now decimated by alcoholism and brutalised by family violence. Quite the contrary: psychologically, if not in strict logic, it will allow a man to beat his wife and blame history.

The compassion bureaucrats

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 16.13.54Dalrymple points out that homelessness is

a source of employment for not negligible numbers of the middle classes.

He pays a visit to a hostel for the homeless sited in

a rather grand but disused and deconsecrated Victorian church.

He discovers that

there were 91 residents and 41 staff members, only a handful of whom had any direct contact with the objects of their ministrations.

The homeless

slept in dormitories in which there was no privacy whatever. There was a rank smell that every doctor recognises (but never records in the medical notes) as the smell of homelessness.

And then,

passing along a corridor and through a door with a combination lock to prevent untoward intrusions, one suddenly entered another world: the sanitised, air-conditioned (and airtight) world of the bureaucracy of compassion.

The number of offices,

all computerised, was astonishing.

The staff,

dressed in smart casual clothes, were absorbed in their tasks, earnestly peering into their computer screens, printing documents, and rushing off for urgent consultations with one another. The amount of activity was impressive, the sense of purpose evident.

It takes some effort for Dalrymple

to recall the residents I had encountered as I entered the hostel, scattered in what had been the churchyard.

They were

swaying if upright and snoring if horizontal, surrounded by empty cans and plastic bottles of 9% alcohol cider (which permits the highest alcohol-to-pence ratio available in England at the moment).


the hostel administrators made pie charts while the residents drank themselves into oblivion.

Miseries annexed to a vicious course of life

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 09.14.15Dalrymple writes:

Not so long ago, I was asked by a newspaper to write an article denouncing the second liver transplant given to a late drunken footballer.

He declined.

Some hangings

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 09.27.27In the prison where he works, a hanging Dalrymple is called to attend turns out to have been a case of murder. The hanged man’s cellmate boasts

that he had intimidated the dead man into hanging himself. He had threatened to cut his throat in his sleep if he did not hang himself first, and the man, who was two weeks from his release, chose the rope—or rather, the bedsheet torn into strips, dampened and braided into a noose. The cellmate helped him up on to the chair and obligingly kicked it away from under him.

Another hanging is

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 09.38.22complicated by the fact that the dead man had on his chest a small puncture wound that penetrated to his heart, inflicted by the thrust of a ballpoint pen, which I had not until then considered a potentially lethal weapon. Even where there is a high illiteracy rate, the pen is as mighty as the sword.

There have been, Dalrymple writes,

many more hangings in my prison since the abolition of the death penalty than there ever were before.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 09.29.59Dalrymple is glad that it is not one of his duties to pronounce a man fit for execution.

The last doctor I met who had examined men for fitness for execution—in a former British colony—was an alcoholic, though I cannot positively say that he was driven to the bottle by a disturbed conscience.

Winson Green

Winson Green


Boozehounds should bring themselves to heel

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 11.38.30

The sublime pink elephant: Dalrymple describes Belgian beer, accurately, as nectar, and one of the best examples of the strong pale ale style is Delirium Tremens (8.5% ABV) from Brouwerij Huyghe in the East Flanders town of Melle. ‘Kleur en uitzicht: bleek blond, de fijne en regelmatige pareling zorgt voor een fijne, stabiele schuimkraag. Geur: Licht moutig, flinke touch alcohol, kruiderig. Smaak: Een flinke scheut alcohol ontvlamt als het ware in de mond, die de tong en het gehemelte werkelijk opwarmen. De smaak is ook gekenmerkt door zijn rondheid. De afdronk is sterk, lang en droogbitter.’

Binge-drinking is not a fate but a vice, albeit a delightful one

Inebriates can easily, writes Dalrymple,

control their drinking, if motives—including fear—are strong enough.

Among the things that encourage sobriety are



the hospital experience.

The problem of compulsive, chronic, unbridled and joyless dipsomania

lies in the psychological, spiritual, and moral realm.

Pull yourselves together!

Inebriates possess

the freedom to resist it, unlike an impersonal force such as gravity.

They should get a hold of themselves.

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 13.45.08Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 13.51.00

A nasty drunk inclined to bullying and violence

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 22.29.58Also a snob and a social climber.

One critic said that no one who knew him ever liked him, although others have denied this. It is rare for anyone to be disliked by everyone.

Dalrymple on John O’Hara, who was

the son of a surgeon, Patrick O’Hara. The father wanted the son to follow in the profession, but he would have none of it, even rejecting his father’s offer of $10,000 if he would do so. O’Hara junior said that he wanted to be a writer; his father said that no good would come of it.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 22.23.15 Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 22.21.30 Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 22.24.26

Dalrymple is rather fond of a drink

He admits that he 'scarcely ever lets a day go by without one'. However, he also says that 'the role of alcohol in drumming up customers for our casualty departments has not entirely escaped me'

Dalrymple admits that he ‘scarcely ever lets a day go by’ without the imbibing of liquors. However, he also says that ‘the role of alcohol in drumming up customers for our casualty departments has not entirely escaped me’.

Incontinence of urine and fæces consequent upon severe inebriation

The British no longer manufacture anything the world wants or provide any services the world wants, but in one field they are world-class: binge-drinking

Dalrymple describes his experience of working as a doctor on a British government aid project in Africa.

We were building a road through remote bush. The contract stipulated that the construction company could import, free of all taxes, alcoholic drinks from the UK. These drinks the company sold to its British workers at cost, in the local currency at the official exchange rate, which was approximately one-sixth the black-market rate. A litre bottle of gin cost less than a dollar.

Drunkenness among the British workers

far outstripped anything I have ever seen, before or since. I discovered that, when alcohol is effectively free of charge, a fifth of British construction workers will regularly go to bed so drunk that they are incontinent both of urine and fæces. I remember one man who very rarely got as far as his bed at night: he fell asleep in the lavatory, where he was usually found the next morning.

Half the men

shook in the mornings and resorted to the hair of the dog to steady their hands before they drove their bulldozers and other heavy machines (which they frequently wrecked, at enormous expense to the British taxpayer). Hangovers were universal. The men were either drunk or hung over for months on end.

In these circumstances

even formerly moderate drinkers turned alcoholic and eventually suffered from delirium tremens.

When the company inquired of its workers what it could do to improve their conditions,

they unanimously asked for a further reduction in the price of alcohol.

Brandybibbers gently reproved

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 03.34.44Dalrymple suggests that Stephen Hales’s A Friendly Admonition to the Drinkers of Brandy and other Distilled Spirituous Liquors (1735)

might be read with profit if not with pleasure by many of the disgustingly drunken inhabitants of his native country today.