Of Hair and Ale | Historical past As we speak

This yr, the Fourth of July, normally a date reserved for festivities on the opposite facet of the Atlantic, was dubbed ‘Tremendous Saturday’ by the UK authorities. Determined to kick-start an financial system that, as in so many nations, has all however floor to a halt, pubs and hairdressers have been allowed to open, albeit with social distancing in operation.

At first sight, hair and ale don’t seem to have a lot in widespread, however they’ve been entwined earlier than in British historical past. Lengthy hair and a liking for beer have been related to Cavaliers, Merrie England, the Excessive Church. A dislike of such fripperies was the territory of the Roundhead, the Puritan, the Chapel. After all, such caricatures are sometimes simply that – John Milton, poet laureate of Puritanism, wore his hair lengthy – however allusions persist.

Lots of people seem to have been studying (or at the very least referencing) Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Yr, for apparent causes. However Defoe’s work, in all probability based mostly on the recollections of his uncle, Henry Foe, was written within the 1720s, lengthy after the horrible occasions of 1665 (when he would have been 5). Different writers, notably Samuel Pepys, but in addition Thomas Vincent and Nathaniel Hodges, provide eyewitness accounts of the struggling and worry of that point. 

However simply as attention-grabbing as watching how a society copes with pestilence or political illness is what occurs to a folks as they emerge from a time of disaster; simply as some did, tentatively, on ‘Tremendous Saturday’. 

The Journal of William Schellinks Travels in England 1661-1663 provides a clue. The Dutch painter and illustrator travelled extensively by means of an England – and never simply London – that was rising from Civil Warfare and the rigours of Puritan rule. He writes of the ‘final such Sabbath day’, when presbyterians have been allowed one final preach earlier than a brand new E book of Widespread Prayer appeared: for which there was ‘such a throng’ that one bookseller had seen the garments torn off his again. That very same week, ‘sack, ale, tobacco, and many others’ was referred to as for, as a nation visibly unbuttoned itself and embraced the outdated methods. What they didn’t know was that the return of the king was quickly to be accompanied by the return of the plague.

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