The Romans of the Decadence (detail), by Thomas Couture, 1847. Musée d'Orsay.

The Romans of the Decadence (detail), by Thomas Couture, 1847. Musée d’Orsay.

Intoxication

Volume VI, Number 1 | winter 2012

Miscellany

In 1387 the physicians to Charles II of Navarre, in order to treat his illness, soaked his sheets in aqua vitae, a distilled wine, and wrapped him in them to enhance the curative power that the liquid was supposed to possess. The sheets were then sewn shut by a maid, who, instead of cutting the final bit of string, set a candle to it. The alcohol-soaked king went up in a blaze and the maid ran away, leaving him to burn to death.

Under the pressure of the cares and sorrows of our mortal condition, men have at all times and in all countries, called in some physical aid to their moral consolations—wine, beer, opium, brandy, or tobacco.

—Edmund Burke, 1795

Lapham’sDaily

The World in Time

Olivier Zunz

Lewis H. Lapham speaks with the author of The Man Who Understood Democracy: The Life of Alexis de Tocqueville. More