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One of the most interesting survivals in the cache of Boswell papers which surfaced during the last century at Malahide Castle in Ireland was the manuscript book in which Boswell kept a record of the guests he entertained at Auchinleck, and of what they drank on each evening. 

The household consumption was neatly recorded in a series of nine columns according to type of liquor: claret, port, Lisbon, sherry, Madeira, Mountain, Sitgis, gin, brandy, rum. Some of these drinks are unfamiliar to us. "Lisbon" was probably a white wine from Carcavelos, near Lisbon. "Mountain" is a sweet and luscious wine from Malaga, in southern Spain. "Sitgis" is probably a muscatel or malvasia wine from Sitges, a port 20 miles southwest of Barcelona. Port is by far the largest item.

But why did Boswell put himself to the trouble of keeping such an exact record? An entry in his journal from the autumn of 1783 supplies a hint: 

A great variety of other company was at Auchinleck. I felt the entertaining of them in general as a laborious and anxious task. I several times drank too much wine, and suffered severe distress after it. I was quite averse to writing. I was exact only in keeping my Book of Company and Liquors, in which I marked with more regularity than I supposed possible for me all the company with us at dinner in one column, and all night in another, with the different liquors drank each day in separate columns.

It was as some kind of counterpoint to the dissipation in drink to which he was always prone that Boswell kept up the prosaic translation of pleasure into accounts that the Book of Company and Liquors represents. He understood his weakness perfectly well, having described himself in verse as a "virtuous man who is inclined to drink; | Who feels an inward suction in his breast, | A raging vortex". The Book of Company and Liquors represented one small way in which he could somehow at least partially reclaim this weakness of will for order and regularity.

The levels of consumption were at times prodigious. On October 13, 1783 there were three men at dinner at Auchinleck, and between them they polished off three bottles of claret, two bottles of port, two bottles of Lisbon, three bottles of Mountain and one bottle of rum. Three days later six men sat down to dinner, but did not rise until they had emptied seven bottles of claret, two "Scotch pints" of claret (each of which was equivalent to three English pints, and thus to approximately two normal bottles), three bottles of port, one bottle of Lisbon, two bottles of Madeira, one bottle of Mountain and one bottle of rum.  

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Don Boswell
December 7th, 2013
5:12 AM
My father always told us we were his kin and from the antics of my 6 brothers I can believe it. (Not me of course.) Eastbourne, New Zealand.

Anonymous
December 1st, 2013
1:12 AM
He liked his nookie, too.

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