The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. "They Who Drink Beer Will Think Beer"

Washington Irving

"They Who Drink Beer Will Think Beer"

Context: Like many tens of thousands of admirers of Shakespeare's plays, Washington Irving made a sentimental journey to Stratford-on-Avon to visit the town where Shakespeare was born and reared, making what he has his persona, Geoffrey Crayon, call "a poetical pilgrimage." Irving describes his experience in visiting the house which was Shakespeare's birthplace and being shown around by a garrulous old lady who displayed all the relics, or alleged relics, of the dramatist's life. He also describes a visit with the sexton who presides over the churchyard and the church where Shakespeare is buried, and tells of a visit to the scene where, allegedly, the young bard was apprehended poaching deer belonging to Sir Thomas Lucy. Of that episode in the dramatist's life, Irving comments that it must have struck the young man as "something delightfully adventurous." In a footnote to this comment. Irving notes that the towns of Bedford and Stratford at one time held beer-drinking contests, and that Shakespeare is alleged by some to have been a one-time champion in such a match; he notes that this episode was earlier mentioned in Ireland's Picturesque Views on the Avon. Irving comments:

. . . Two societies of the village yeomanry used to meet, under the appellation of the Bedford Topers, and to challenge the lovers of good ale of the neighbouring villages to a contest of drinking. Among others, the people of Stratford were called out to prove the strength of their heads; and in the number of champions was Shakespeare, who, in spite of the proverb that "They who drink beer will think beer," was as true to his ale as Falstaff to his sack. The chivalry of Stratford was staggered at the first onset, and sounded a retreat while they had legs to carry them off the field. . . .