Fragmented Persons: Charles Lamb, John Woodvil and ‘The Confessions of a Drunkard’

Part of the Romanticism in Perspective: Texts, Cultures, Histories book series (ROPTCH)


Attitudes toward heavy drinking change at the end of the eighteenth century. We have seen that doctors and social observers noticed the heavy drinking of the poor because of their greater concentration in cities and around industries, and that doctors began to call this drinking a disease and to lament it not just for groups but also for individual cases. We have seen Dr Currie examine at length Burns’s drunkenness where fifty years before it would scarcely deserve mention and two hundred years before would rouse laughter, as the transformation of the drunkard Christopher Sly in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew sets the tone of the actions to come. Dating the moment of change is difficult, but the contrast between Samuel Johnson (who willed himself to stop drinking) and James Boswell (who tried, but could not) points the way:1 inward struggle, powerlessness and guilty awareness subtly deepen the problem of drunkenness.


Personal Identity Heavy Drinking Bundle Theory East India Company Malt Liquor 
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Copyright information

© Anya Taylor 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John Jay College of Criminal JusticeThe City University of New YorkUSA

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