Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 117

Today’s words come to us via an eagle-eyed, family friend of mine . . . Thanks, Lynetta!

The words are from late 19th century Australian novelist and poet, Marcus Clarke.  His most famous book, For the Term of His Natural Life, is historical fiction based on early Australian convict colonies.

A little history . . . up until 1782, England shipped its convicts (overflow from prisons stuffed beyond capacity) to its favorite colony, America.  However, in 1783, the American Revolution came to an end, and America refused to take any more of England’s undesirables.  (Mind you, most of these folks weren’t violent offenders.  Many were convicted of committing vile acts like stealing cheese, which wasn’t punishable by death, but by transportation.)  Plan B was to ship all of the convicts to another colony, Australia.  The first convicts arrived in 1788, and over the next 80 years, 160,000 others would join them.

If the hellish six month trip from England to Australia didn’t kill you (scurvy, lice, dystentery and abuse weren’t in the travel brochure), then the brutal conditions (rape, floggings, starvation, etc.) at the penal colony would.  Yet, there were survivors.  Today, over 20% of Australians are descendants of convicts.

Convicts were paid partially in rum, contributing to an early history of affection for alcohol.  Writing in the late 19th century, Clarke once remarked of Australians,

[Australians] have a proper consciousness of the beauty of debauchery.  They are not a nation of snobs like the English or of extravagant boasters like the Americans or of reckless profligates like the French, they are simply a nation of drunkards.

And finally, about wine . . .



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