The main characters in Highwaypersons seem to drink a lot of wine, sherry, port, brandy, whisky and ale. In short every drink containing alcohol, whenever available. So do most of the other characters. Was this a period of a great deal of drunkenness? How typical were these individuals?
Was drinking considered a sin?
Someone reminded me that he associates Welsh nonconformity with teetotalism but he had noticed that my two main characters were educated by their uncle, a Presbyterian minister.
Presbyterians in Wales, as indeed in the rest of the British Isles, almost always disapproved of drunkenness and heavy drinking. However, for a long time, many tended to favour moderation rather than total abstinence. Complete hostility to alcohol, among almost all nonconformists, became the norm during the Nineteenth Century. This led to most of their churches using non-alcoholic alternatives to wine in the Holy Communion. Many people reacted against the increasing problem of excessive drinking throughout Britain.
What about the Highwaypersons?
It is likely that the consumption of alcohol was quite high throughout the population in the early Eighteenth Century. Let us consider my characters specifically. They spent their teenage years working in an inn and then spent a decade in army camps, after which they returned to the inn. It is not surprising that they became accustomed to drinking alcohol, despite their early upbringing. To be fair, they do drink tea in some scenes. It was just becoming popular at that time as British trade with India increased.
What about water?
It is worth bearing in mind that water was often polluted in those days, even in the countryside, all the more in cities. Alcohol has the effect of protecting drinkers through its antiseptic qualities. Small beer and small ale were watered down drinks, which enabled people to stay safe and sober. Relatively. Wine was also sometimes diluted for the same reason. It is interesting that the Victorian moral crusades against alcohol got going after cleaner water had become available. This improvement was a result of government action following the cholera outbreaks of the middle of the Nineteenth Century.
What is your judgement?
Do not be too hard on Billy and Bethan but remember that I would not choose a highwayman or highwaywoman as my moral guide.