Tuesday, August 30, 2011


No Votary Staunch as Thou

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), Poems, Dialogues in Verse and Epigrams, ed. Charles G. Crump, vol. II (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1892), p. 278:
'Twas far beyond the midnight hour
  And more than half the stars were falling,
And jovial friends, who lost the power
  Of sitting, under chairs lay sprawling;

Not Porson so; his stronger pate
  Could carry more of wine and Greek
Than Cambridge held; erect he sate;
  He nodded, yet could somehow speak.

"'Tis well, O Bacchus! they are gone,
  Unworthy to approach thy altar!
The pious man prays best alone,
  Nor shall thy servant ever falter."

Then Bacchus too, like Porson, nodded,
  Shaking the ivy on his brow,
And graciously replied the godhead,
  "I have no votary staunch as thou."
Richard Porson (1759-1808), famous Greek scholar, was also a renowned toper. See Recollections of the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, to which is added Porsoniana, 2nd ed. (London: Edward Moxon, 1856), pp. 299-301 (footnote omitted):
At dinner, and after it, he preferred port to any other wine. He disliked both tea and coffee.

Porson would sit up drinking all night, without seeming to feel any bad effects from it. Home Tooke told me that he once asked Porson to dine with him in Richmond Buildings; and, as he knew that Porson had not been in bed for the three preceding nights, he expected to get rid of him at a tolerably early hour. Porson, however, kept Tooke up the whole night; and in the morning, the latter, in perfect despair, said, " Mr. Porson, I am engaged to meet a friend at breakfast at a coffee-house in Leicester Square."—" Oh," replied Porson, " I will go with you;" and he accordingly did so. Soon after they had reached the coffee-house, Tooke contrived to slip out, and running home, ordered his servant not to let Mr. Porson in, even if he should attempt to batter down the door. "A man," observed Tooke, "who could sit up four nights successively might have sat up forty."

Tooke used to say that " Porson would drink ink rather than not drink at all." Indeed, he would drink any thing. He was sitting with a gentleman, after dinner, in the chambers of a mutual friend, a Templar, who was then ill and confined to bed. A servant came into the room, sent thither by his master for a bottle of embrocation which was on the chimney-piece. "I drank it an hour ago," said Porson.

When Hoppner the painter was residing in a cottage a few miles from London, Porson, one afternoon, unexpectedly arrived there. Hoppner said that he could not offer him dinner, as Mrs. H. had gone to town, and had carried with her the key of the closet which contained the wine. Porson, however, declared that he would be content with a mutton-chop, and beer from the next alehouse; and accordingly stayed to dine. During the evening Porson said, "I am quite certain that Mrs. Hoppner keeps some nice bottle, for her private drinking, in her own bedroom; so, pray, try if you can lay your hands on it." His host assured him that Mrs. H. had no such secret stores; but Porson insisting that a search should be made, a bottle was at last discovered in the lady's apartment, to the surprise of Hoppner, and the joy of Porson, who soon finished its contents, pronouncing it to be the best gin he had tasted for a long time. Next day, Hoppner, somewhat out of temper, informed his wife that Porson had drunk every drop of her concealed dram. "Drunk every drop of it!" cried she: "my God, it was spirits-of-wine for the lamp!"

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