The author is grateful to the readers and audiences who offered feedback on this essay, including the audience at the Huntington Library British History seminar, particularly Cynthia Herrup and Judith Bennett; and to colleagues including Emily Anderson, Robert Darcy, Will Fisher, Penelope Geng, Heidi Brayman Hackel, Carla Mazzio, Marjorie Rubright, and Timothy Zajac, all of whom offered comments on drafts of this work. The author also thanks the anonymous readers of English Literary Renaissance for their thoughtful reports.
Compulsory Conviviality in Early Modern England [with illustrations]
Article first published online: 12 SEP 2013
© 2013 The Author(s). English Literary Renaissance © 2013 English Literary Renaissance Inc.
English Literary Renaissance
Volume 43, Issue 3, pages 381–414, September 2013
How to Cite
Lemon, R. (2013), Compulsory Conviviality in Early Modern England [with illustrations]. English Literary Renaissance, 43: 381–414. doi: 10.1111/1475-6757.12012
- Issue published online: 12 SEP 2013
- Article first published online: 12 SEP 2013
To drink to a friend's health was the most popular and chronicled drinking ritual of the early modern period in England. While health drinking appears convivial in Cavalier poetry, such drinking was nonetheless controversial, heavily debated, and at times illegal. Furthermore, a host of writers, including Shakespeare, depict health drinking as compulsive and divisive. This essay traces the significant yet overlooked literature on health drinking, extending over an eighty-year period from pamphleteers and playwrights of the 1580s–1610s through Cavalier poets up to the period of Charles II's restoration. This survey reveals thematic continuities running through the canon of healthing literature, as well as a significant shift in the literary representation of health drinking: a condemned practice reappears as a country ritual within the space of a generation. Whereas Elizabethan writers found national solidarity in satirizing healthing as a foreign and villainous practice, later Jacobean and Caroline poets use health drinking to establish political allegiances. But in doing so these poets become trapped in a mode of compulsory conviviality, and thus their verse resonates with an earlier generation's satirical views on the practice. (R. L.)