Lincy’s Luck: A Temperance Lecture
In a post-script to his unique autobiography the peripatetic Berks comedian Hugh Lindsay, declared in 1859, that he would quit the circus and devote the remainder of his life to lecturing on “Temperance and Morality.” If the qualifications for such a profession included first-hand contact with the evils being denounced, then the loose-living clown was eminently fitted for the new role. His own life-sketch, penned when he was 55 years of age, is replete with escapades which should have taught a vivid lesson on the evils of intemperance and immorality. One of these escapades is reproduced here in the victim’s own inimitable words:
“We had been over on a tour through Lancaster County. (This was in 1855, when Lindsay lived in Bethel, Berks County). My company: myself, son Charles, Trexler, Hornberger and part of the time Nicols and his family.
I took a violent cold, got on a drunken spree and kept it up for several days, drinking old Monongahela wiskey, made out of rotten corn, 24 hours old and adulterated with strychnine and blue stone. I then knocked off from that and tapered off with the best American brandy, manufactured by some dutch Jew or Irish blackguard that have no souls and don’t care a damn who they kill or cure, so long as they pocket the dross. (Poor Lindsay)
Many of the tavern keepers are so ignorant they don’t know good liquor, from tarwater and aqua fortis (nitric acid)… if a man comes to them to wet his goblet, and asks for a good liquor it is at once highly recommended for all diseases of the stomach and after he takes it into his mouth he is obliged to take a hopskip and jump, and butt his head against the bar to swallow it. After it is down in his stomach it will cause him to raise the alarm of fire; after he partakes of a few more doses he is tumbled out of the barroom with a pouch full of strychnine, commonly called brandy or old rye.
“When I returned home from Lancaster I stopped off drinking. When at home I was attacked with delirium tremens, or mania potu. It lasted for eight or ten days; the time was awful – my wife and poor children around the bed frightened and weeping, at seeing me in that horrid state. I could see anything that I wanted to see – could throw myself to any part of the world. All kinds of forms appeared before me – monsters of all descriptions, cutting with aces, knives and hayforks. I was attacked by the devil and his whole host of angels.” Poor Lindsay.
In the same paragraph that he decries the evils of strong drink he takes a thrust at the officers of the law. The police he calls “a set of midnight robbers, knicknamed guardians of the po-lice” who capture “strychnine-inflated toby philpots” on a “cantico” and hurry them to the “dog-house.” The next day they are take to the “Horse-mare” (mayor) and if the “strychnine man” does not have the ready “John Davis” (cash) he is sent into the arms of Mamma-Mensing (Moyamensing) the state penitentiary. Once, he records, he was captured by two midnight kidnappers and hauled before “his Satanship, the horse-mare” from whence he was cast among “some vulgar people in the city lockup.” – Poor Lindsay!