John Barleycorn HTML version

Chapter 27
As I succeeded with my writing, my standard of living rose and my horizon broadened. I
confined myself to writing and typing a thousand words a day, including Sundays and
holidays; and I still studied hard, but not so hard as formerly. I allowed myself five and
one-half hours of actual sleep. I added this half-hour because I was compelled. Financial
success permitted me more time for exercise. I rode my wheel more, chiefly because it
was permanently out of pawn; and I boxed and fenced, walked on my hands, jumped high
and broad, put the shot and tossed the caber, and went swimming. And I learned that
more sleep is required for physical exercise than for mental exercise. There were tired
nights, bodily, when I slept six hours; and on occasion of very severe exercise I actually
slept seven hours. But such sleep orgies were not frequent. There was so much to learn,
so much to be done, that I felt wicked when I slept seven hours. And I blessed the man
who invented alarm clocks.
And still no desire to drink. I possessed too many fine faiths, was living at too keen a
pitch. I was a socialist, intent on saving the world, and alcohol could not give me the
fervours that were mine from my ideas and ideals. My voice, on account of my successful
writing, had added weight, or so I thought. At any rate, my reputation as a writer drew me
audiences that my reputation as a speaker never could have drawn. I was invited before
clubs and organisations of all sorts to deliver my message. I fought the good fight, and
went on studying and writing, and was very busy.
Up to this time I had had a very restricted circle of friends. But now I began to go about. I
was invited out, especially to dinner, and I made many friends and acquaintances whose
economic lives were easier than mine had been. And many of them drank. In their own
houses they drank and offered me drink. They were not drunkards any of them. They just
drank temperately, and I drank temperately with them as an act of comradeship and
accepted hospitality. I did not care for it, neither wanted it nor did not want it, and so
small was the impression made by it that I do not remember my first cocktail nor my first
Scotch highball.
Well, I had a house. When one is asked into other houses, he naturally asks others into his
house. Behold the rising standard of living. Having been given drink in other houses, I
could expect nothing else of myself than to give drink in my own house. So I laid in a
supply of beer and whisky and table claret. Never since that has my house not been well
And still, through all this period, I did not care in the slightest for John Barleycorn. I
drank when others drank, and with them, as a social act. And I had so little choice in the
matter that I drank whatever they drank. If they elected whisky, then whisky it was for
me. If they drank root beer or sarsaparilla, I drank root beer or sarsaparilla with them.
And when there were no friends in the house, why, I didn't drink anything. Whisky
decanters were always in the room where I wrote, and for months and years I never knew
what it was, when by myself, to take a drink.