E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class opens with a very evocative quotation from the memoirs of Thomas Hardy, founder of the London Corresponding Society. He describes their first meeting, in the Bell pub off the Strand, in 1792:
After having had their bread and cheese and porter for supper, as usual, and their pipes afterwards, with some conversation on the hardness of the times, and the dearness of all the necessaries of life… the business for which they had met was brought forward — Parliamentary Reform — an important subject to be deliberated upon and dealt with by such a class of men.
I’d love to have porter and cheese for my tea every night and I’m beginning to wonder if my pub conversations are a bit trivial, given the hardness of the times.