Saturday, March 26, 2011

Burnt Wine

March 26, 1667 was a busy day for Samuel Pepys.  He begins by ruminating over the impending death of his mother.  But he has official business to attend to, people to see, and good food and wine to enjoy.  Pepys mentions wine several times in his diary, and this day he's taking it burnt.

'...So at noon home to dinner, where I find Creed, who dined with us, but I had not any time to talk with him, my head being busy, and before I had dined was called away by Sir W. Batten, and both of us in his coach (which I observe his coachman do always go now from hence towards White Hall through Tower Street, and it is the best way) to Exeter House, where the judge was sitting, and after several little causes comes on ours, and while the several depositions and papers were at large reading (which they call the preparatory), and being cold by being forced to sit with my hat off close to a window in the Hall, Sir W. Pen and I to the Castle Tavern hard by and got a lobster, and he and I staid and eat it, and drank good wine; I only burnt wine, as my whole custom of late hath been, as an evasion, God knows, for my drinking of wine (but it is an evasion which will not serve me now hot weather is coming, that I cannot pretend, as indeed I really have done, that I drank it for cold), but I will leave it off, and it is but seldom, as when I am in women’s company, that I must call for wine, for I must be forced to drink to them...'

Walter Scott was familiar with burnt wine as well, which leads the friar in "Ivanhoe" to a surprising discovery:

'..."Nay, we will have no profanation, mad Priest," said Locksley; " let us rather hear where you found this prisoner of thine."

" By Saint Dunstan," said the Friar, " I found him where I sought for better ware! I did step into the cellarage to see what might be rescued there ; for though a cup of burnt wine, with spice, be an evening's draught for an emperor, it were waste, methought, to let so much good liquor be mulled at once ; and I caught up one runlet of sack, and was coming to call more aid among these lazy knaves, who are ever to seek when a good deed is to be done, when I was advised of a strong door —Aha! thought I, here is the choicest juice of all in this secret crypt; and the knave butler, being disturbed in his vocation, hath left the key in the door—In, therefore, I went, and found just nought besides a commodity of rusted chains and this dog of a Jew, who presently rendered himself my prisoner, rescue or no rescue. I did but refresh myself after the fatigue of the action with the unbeliever, with one humming cup of sack, and was proceeding to lead forth my captive, when, crash after crash, as with wild thunder-dint and levinfire, down toppled the masonry of an outer tower, (marry beshrew their hands that built it not the firmer !) and blocked up the passage...'

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