This printed image concerns itself with human
figures surrounding a centrally placed bottle labeled 'Fine Cordial Gin.'
To the right of the bottle, a standing male figure points to the gin bottle
and instrument on the floor while looking at the figure on the left. The
standing male figure also holds the limp arm of the closed-eyed female figure
in the bed. Next to the bed, a young girl holds a baby who is facing and
reaching for the figure on the bed. An additional child rubs its eye and
bends its head.
To the left of center, a ragged figure leans
against a wooden chair, looking towards the bed, table and standing figure.
The broken table holds the bottle of "Fine Cordial Gin", an empty glass
and what appears to be a pipe. A poker, placed diagonally on the floor,
points in the direction of the bed. To the left of the leaning man, an open
door frames a young child and an adult with a stovepipe hat. Left of the
doorframe, a semi-curtained window frames several onlookers as well as another
stovepipe hatted individual.
The proliferation of drink was considered
an evil among the working poor. Cheap gin was available at a very low
price, and offered to the working class an escape to the drudgeries of
everyday life. The boom in gin drinking began in the 1720s, when the government
freed gin from many of the restrictions controlling its sale. By 1751,
gin's availability was restricted as higher taxes were imposed.
The leaning drunken man has beaten his
wife to death. The instrument of murder, the poker, lies on the floor
pointing directly to the dead wife in the bed. The murderer shows no remorse,
only casual and grim acceptance.
The centrally placed and erect doctor,
meanwhile, holds the limp hand of the dead wife who fades into the shadows
of the drawing. The motherless children weep, setting up a deliberate
situation of emotional morality. The child in the doorway is left to explain
the situation to the constable as he too appears grim faced.
Both central players in the drama (the
murdering husband and the moral doctor) are placed on either side of the
gin bottle. Both figures face each other as well as the true 'instrument'
of death, deliberately positioned and shaded so that viewers would be
able to recognize the evils of drink.
first effect of poverty
is the confiscation of a poor man's best
time and thought, from sheer necessity, to the task of providing food
and clothing for himself and his family
A man can work hard, if
his work is also felt to be a source of refinement, of instruction,
of discipline, of recreation; if it enlightens his mind, if it purifies
his affections. As a rule, a poor man's work is not of that description:
it is, from all points of view save that of the wages it yields, unremunerative,
because it is more or less mechanical╝ Another effect of poverty is
that it often blights those domestic scenes of happiness which prepare
the way of religion in the soul. In the natural course of things, kindliness,
courtesy, refinement, are the products of home life; the home is the
center and the manufactury of these natural graces. It is to his family
that a man escapes when his day's toil is over. At home he forgets the
passions and the rivalries, be they great or small, of his public life
at home the finer side of human nature has a chance of growing, as being
sure of its nutriment and welcome...two things are needed: competency
and order. And how often are these wanting in the households of the
a comfortless home is often more fatal to character than
to health. It chills the affections; it sours the temper; it ends by
doing more. Nothing is more common than to hear severe language applied
to the poor man's habit of spending his evenings at the public house
It is the road to ruin without a doubt
Liddon; Sermon, 1876