Of cheap gin and forgiving husbands

One of London’s brand new police constables was on duty in Drury Lane in November 1829 when he came across the collapsed person of an elderly lady. She was very drunk having consumed too much cheap gin at the behest of a friend of hers.

The policeman called for assistance from a couple of passers-by and they managed to carry the woman to the nearest watch-house (the predecessor of the police station).

In the morning she was brought up before Mr Halls at Bow Street on a charge of being drunk and incapable. The magistrate noted that she was the eight such case he’d seen this morning already.

‘He did not know what was the matter with the old women, that they should reduce themselves to the level of swine for the pure love of gin’.

At this point an old man steeped forearm and told Mr Hall that the woman was his wife and the mother of his seven children. He said that his wife was ‘addicted to drinking, and on Saturday contrived to possess herself of every farthing of his hard week’s earnings, which she spent on gin, and left him and their children without a morsel of food to put in their mouths’.

The justice sympathised with the old man but remained him he had taken her ‘for better or worse’ and the husband quipped that ‘it had all been worse and no better’, prompting laughter in the court.

Mr Hall admonished the old drunk and told her she didn’t deserve such a decent husband, and then related her into his care.

[from The Morning Post, Tuesday, November 17, 1829]

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