Important acquisitions

Whiskiana, or, the drunkard's progress. A poem. In Scottish verse.

Author [Anon]
Title Whiskiana, or, the drunkard's progress. A poem. In Scottish verse.
Imprint Glasgow: printed by A. Napier
Date of Publication 1812
Language English
Notes This is a poem in Scots dealing with the "evil of habitual intoxication", which mixes humour with a serious moral message. The anonymous author, 'Anti-Whiskianus', reveals in the preface that he was originally from the village of Ceres in Fife and wrote the poem between 1810 and 1811. "Whiskiana" is in five parts covering the progress of a drunkard from inebriation to redemption: a description of the drunkard, his wife's lament for his "infatuated conduct", his remorse, his repentance, and finally his complete reformation when he swaps the bottle for a prayer book. The author acknowledges Scots popular poet Hector Macneill as an inspiration; Macneill had written a ballad against the evils of drink, "Scotland's Skaith, or, The History of Will and Jean", first published in 1795, which quickly became a popular favourite and which is quoted on the title page. "Whiskiana" can be regarded as a further sign of growing unease among some Scots about the social problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Scotland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was becoming an increasingly urbanised society due to the Industrial Revolution, with a growing and thirsty population, and there was little attempt to control and regulate alcohol production, illicit spirits being found in most taverns. 'Anti-Whiskianus' has no qualms in his preface about criticising the late Robert Burns, indeed the poem is meant to "counteract the excessive praises lavished on whisky by Burns". The author may have been influenced by James Currie's biography in his four-volume edition of the works of Burns, first published in 1800, in which Currie controversially mentioned that Burns drank to excess. He may also have in mind the traditions of Scottish conviviality exemplified by the male drinking clubs of the 18th-century to which many Scottish literary figures, including Burns, belonged, 'How comes it why ilk Scottish bard/Their sonnets always interlard, Strong recommending drinking hard, Wit to inspire?/Can sober thinking e'er retard/Poetic fire?" For men such as 'Anti-Whiskianus' temperance was the only solution to the problem; such sentiments would lead in the late 1820s to the establishment of temperance societies in Scotland. This appears to be the only published version of the poem, no other copies have been recorded in other major libraries.
Shelfmark AP.1.211.06
Reference Sources Jack S. Blocker, David M. Fahey, and Ian R. Tyrrell eds "Alcohol and temperance in modern history: an international encyclopedia" v. 1 Santa Barbara, Calif., c. 2003.
Acquired on 15/01/11
Search for Important Acquisitions
      

 

Please let us know what you think of this resource, if you have information to add about an acquisition, or if you have rare Scottish books that you would like to donate or sell. E-mail us at rarebooks@nls.uk

Back to Important Acquisitions Introduction