The liquor business is carried on in London, certainly to a
greater extent than is any other. There is a well known London boast the
"No one drinks water." This is literally true. The rich, with meat and
vegetables, drink the best ale and stout; and wines, brandies and cordials, with
dessert. No beggar so poor but that he can afford to spend threpence for his
pint of "af-nat," or stout.
At wedding parties, baptisms, social gatherings, funerals, everywhere every body drinks. Men drink, women drink and children drink. A sideboard, with well-filled decanters and plenty of glasses, is considered of almost as much necessity in housekeeping, as is a table, bed or chairs. Respectable ladies drink to an incredible extent. I have seen respectable looking women, occupying the most expensive seats in the theatre, produce from their pockets between the acts, a small pocket bottle and glass, and pass them around among their companions. It might have been water; but "no one drinks water." The hired mourners at funerals (mentioned in another chapter,) I have seen standing or attempting to stand on the door steps, beastly drunk. A table with decanters and glasses is frequently placed in the entry near the door for their use.
W. O'Daniel, Ins and Outs of London, 1859