Porson: Classical Scholar & Alcoholic

Recollections of the Table Talk of Samuel Rogers, to which is added Porsoniana:

“Tooke used to say that ‘Porson would drink ink rather than not drink at all.’ Indeed, he would drink any thing. He was sitting with a gentleman, after dinner, in the chambers of a mutual friend, a Templar, who was then ill and confined to bed. A servant came into the room, sent thither by his master for a bottle of embrocation which was on the chimney-piece. ‘I drank it an hour ago,’ said Porson.

When Hoppner the painter was residing in a cottage a few miles from London, Porson, one afternoon, unexpectedly arrived there. Hoppner said that he could not offer him dinner, as Mrs. H. had gone to town, and had carried with her the key of the closet which contained the wine. Porson, however, declared that he would be content with a mutton-chop, and beer from the next alehouse; and accordingly stayed to dine. During the evening Porson said, ‘I am quite certain that Mrs. Hoppner keeps some nice bottle, for her private drinking, in her own bedroom; so, pray, try if you can lay your hands on it.’ His host assured him that Mrs. H. had no such secret stores; but Porson insisting that a search should be made, a bottle was at last discovered in the lady’s apartment, to the surprise of Hoppner, and the joy of Porson, who soon finished its contents, pronouncing it to be the best gin he had tasted for a long time. Next day, Hoppner, somewhat out of temper, informed his wife that Porson had drunk every drop of her concealed dram. ‘Drunk every drop of it!’ cried she: ‘my God, it was spirits-of-wine for the lamp!'”

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