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John Ridd on Beer

We’re both reading R.D. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone at the moment — a pleasingly booze-filled novel.

Published in 1869, it is set in the 17th century, and the following passage occurs when the hero, the burly Exmoor gentleman farmer John Ridd, is a guest at the house of a ‘foreign lady’ near Watchett in Somerset:

John Ridd, uncredited illustration c.1893.
John Ridd, uncredited illustration c.1893.

“Now what will ye please to eat?” she asked, with a lively glance at the size of my mouth: “that is always the first thing you people ask, in these barbarous places.”

“I will tell you by-and-by,” I answered, misliking this satire upon us; “but I might begin with a quart of ale, to enable me to speak, madam.”

“Very well. One quevart of be-or;” she called out to a little maid, who was her eldest child, no doubt. “It is to be expected, sir. Be-or, be-or, be-or, all day long, with you Englishmen!”

“Nay,” I replied, “not all day long, if madam will excuse me. Only a pint at breakfast-time, and a pint and a half at eleven o’clock, and a quart or so at dinner. And then no more till the afternoon; and half a gallon at supper-time. No one can object to that.”

“Well, I suppose it is right,” she said, with an air of resignation; “God knows. But I do not understand it. It is ‘good for business,’ as you say, to preclude everything.”

“And it is good for us, madam,” I answered with indignation, “for beer is my favourite beverage; and I am a credit to beer, madam; and so are all who trust to it.”

“At any rate, you are, young man. If beer has made you grow so large, I will put my children upon it; it is too late for me to begin. The smell to me is hateful.”

Now I only set down that to show how perverse those foreign people are. They will drink their wretched heartless stuff, such as they call claret, or wine of Medoc, or Bordeaux, or what not, with no more meaning than sour rennet, stirred with the pulp from the cider press, and strained through the cap of our Betty. This is very well for them; and as good as they deserve, no doubt, and meant perhaps by the will of God, for those unhappy natives. But to bring it over to England and set it against our home-brewed ale (not to speak of wines from Portugal) and sell it at ten times the price, as a cure for British bile, and a great enlightenment; this I say is the vilest feature of the age we live in.

Text taken from the Project Gutenberg edition; main image from The Blackmore Country by F.J. Snell, 1911, via

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