A Glass of Wine

Manly abstention.

I am no advocate of total abstinence. Quite the contrary! I am sorry for the man who has to bind himself down by oaths and vows to refrain from drink, because he knows that he cannot leave off when he has had enough. But if he abstains, not from any knowledge of inward weakness, but from the same motive that urged St. Paul to say: “I would not eat meat while the world lasts, lest I make my brother to offend,” then I honour him with all my heart. And this is honestly the principle on which many become total abstainers, women as well as men.

Why should we have wine?

But what I want to get at is the ordinary everyday practice of drinking wine, which most of us follow in some degree or other. I do not refer to excessive drinking, inebriety, or anything of that kind, but merely the customary glass or two of wine at lunch, and two or three glasses at dinner. This can in no possible way be regarded as a bad habit. It is, in fact, the usual thing in polite society, and girls are brought up to it, and when they marry, and perhaps find that among other expensive habits this one has to be given up, they miss their glass of wine rather badly at first. Why should we have wine? That is the real question. There is no very particular reason why those who can afford it should not drink wine; but why should they do it? I think I could give a better set of reasons contra than pro in this matter.

Reasons against the habits.

First comes the one already referred to: that circumstances may not always admit of their indulging themselves in this rather expensive habit. Good wine costs money, and cheap wine is often highly injurious.

Another good reason for not drinking wine habitually at table is that when the health is impaired by illness or low vitality arising from any cause, the invigorating effect of good wine is quite lost, owing to the system having become accustomed to it. This prevents it from acting upon the nerves and tissues as it would do most beneficially if there were any novelty about it.

A third reason for not doing it is that for patients who have made a continual practice of wine-drinking at meals, doctors are obliged, in quite nine cases out of ten, to forbid it, especially to women. And almost always they order whiskey instead. How often one hears people say nowadays—both men and women—“My doctor won’t let me drink wine. He says I must have whiskey and water, if I drink anything.”

Sir Henry Thompson’s verdict.

“A dietetic error.”

No doubt the doctor would generally prefer that his patients should not drink even the whiskey, but he knows very well that the habit of a lifetime is not to be overcome without an amount of resolution which is by no means always forthcoming. Sir Henry Thompson, in his admirable book, “Food and Feeding,” gives it as his opinion that “the habitual use of wine, beer, or spirits is a dietetic error.” He adds to this very straight and direct pronouncement: “In other words, the great majority of people, at any age or of either sex, will enjoy better health, both of body and mind, and will live longer, without alcoholic drinks whatever than with habitual indulgence in their use, even though such use be what is popularly understood as moderate. But I do not aver that any particular harm results from the habit of now and then enjoying a glass of really fine, pure wine, just as one may occasionally enjoy a particularly choice dish; neither the one nor the other, perhaps, being sufficiently innocuous or digestible for frequent, much less habitual, use.” And there is much more to practically the same effect. So that this eminent authority regards the habit of daily drinking wine as one that is likely to produce more or less injurious results upon the body, and possibly upon the mind as well.

The greatest danger.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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