Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Wife Drink Gin, 1752

The c18th print below serves as a reminder that indulging in too much gin can cause mischief. A grim-faced husband trudges and sighs his way along the street, regretting that he has (once again) allowed his merry wife to be to free with the Strip-and-go-naked.

‘A Poor Man Loaded with Mischief, or Matrimony…
drawn by Experience, engrav’d by Sorrow’, London, 1752


The first lines of the accompanying verse read:

A Monkey, a Magpye & Wife, Is the true Emblem of Strife

and all three are perched precariously on our beleaguered hero’s shoulders. It isn’t the most dignified of situations for the poor fellow. As the ape grapples with his wig, his sprawling mistress raises a tot of gin to “My buck’s health”, apparently unaware that not only is she contributing more to his heartache than his healthfulness, she is also exposing her breasts to the whole town. And all with a smile on her face.

In Ancient Greece and Rome the magpie was sacred to the Gods of wine and revelry, Dionysus and Bacchus. It was thought that the bird loosened tongues under the influence of alcohol, and caused secrets to be revealed; perhaps our gin-soaked wife is chattering endlessly and loudly on subjects better left unspoken. Apes also feature in many depictions of Bacchus and his followers, perhaps an allusion to the degeneration of men into beasts after a swig too much. In his Eight Kindes of Drunkenness (1592) the satirist Thomas Nashe begins: The first is ape drunke; and he leapes, and singes, and hollowes, and danceth for the heavens.

The troop stagger past a pig in a pen (this time with the aside that she is ‘as drunk as David’s sow) and a public house with a sign bearing the horns of the cuckold and a pair of cats, most likely an allusion to promiscuity or prostitution. It seems that our lady’s tongue is not the only thing she is too free with. Sadly for her husband, his bed has been made and the heavy chains of wedlock are tight around his neck.

Gents, take note, the message is clear.

Keep your woman away from the G&Ts.



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