For Your Delectation
August 10, 2007
A man advanced in dignity and age counted drink among the three principal comforts that he used to say he had left in life. but he took it in the wrong way. Fastidiousness is to be avoided in it, and careful selection of wines. If you make your pleasure depend on drinking good wine, you condemn yourself to the pain of sometimes drinking bad wine. We must have a less exacing and freer taste. To be a good drinker, one must not have so delicate a palate. The Germans drink almost all wines with equal pleasure. Their aim is to swallow rather than to taste. They have mnuch the better of the bargain. Their pleasure is much more plentiful and ready to hand.
Second, to drink French style, at two meals and moderately, for fear of your health, is to restrain the god’s favor too much. You need more time and persistence. The ancients spent whole nights at this exercise, and often added the days. And so we should make our daily drinking habits more expansive and vigorous. I have seen a great lord in my time, a personage of high enterprises and famous successes, who, without effort and in the course of his ordinary meals, used to drink scarcely fewer than ten quarts of wine, and showed himself only too wise and circumspect, at the expense of our affairs.
The pleasure we want to reckon on for the course of our life should occupy more space in it. Like shop apprentices and workmen, we should refuse no chance to drink, and have this desire always in our head. It seems that every day we cut down on our eating and drinking, and that in our houses, as I remember from my childhood, lunches, suppers, and collations used to be much more frequent and usual than they are now. Could it be that in some respects we are moving toward improvement? Surely not. The fact is that we are much more addicted to lechery than were our fathers. These two occupations interfere with each other in their vigor. Lechery has weakened our stomach on the one hand; and on the other hand, sobriety serves to make us more lively and lusty for the exercise of love.
—Montaigne, On Drunkenness