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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

Is known in the Quaker companies


are one or two customs of the Quakers, which I shall notice before I conclude this chapter.

It is one of the fashions of the world, where people meet in company, for men and women, when the dinner is over, to drink their wine together, and for the women, having done this for a short time, to retire. This custom of the females withdrawing after dinner was probably first insisted upon from an idea, that their presence would be a restraint upon the circulation of the bottle, as well as upon the conversation of the men. The Quakers, however, seldom submit to this practice. Men and women generally sit together and converse as before dinner. I do not mean by this that women may not retire if they please, because there is no restraint upon any one in the company of the Quakers; nor do I mean to say, that women do not occasionally retire, and leave the men at their wine. There are a few rich families, which, having mixed more than usual with the world, allow of this separation. But where one allows it, there are ninety-nine, who give wine to their company after dinner, who do not. It is not a Quaker-custom, that in a given time after dinner, the one should be separated from the other sex.

It is a pity that the practice of the Quakers should not have been adopted by others of our own country in this particular. Many advantages would result to those, who were to follow the example. For if women were allowed to remain,

chastity of expression and decorum of behaviour would be more likely to be insured. There presence also would operate as a check upon drunkenness. Nor can there be a doubt, that women would enliven and give a variety to conversation; and, as they have had a different education from men, that an opportunity of mutual improvement might be afforded by the continuance of the two in the society of one another.

It is also usual with the world in such companies, that the men, when the females have retired, should continue drinking till tea-time. This custom is unknown to the Quakers, even to those few Quakers, who allow of a separation of the sexes. It is not unusual with them to propose a walk before tea, if the weather permit. But even in the case where they remain at the table, their time is spent rather in conversing than in drinking. They have no toasts, as I have observed, which should induce them to put the bottle round in a given time, or which should oblige them to take a certain number of glasses. The bottle, however, is usually put round, and each helps himself as he pleases. At length one of the guests, having had sufficient, declines filling his glass. Another, in a little time, declines also for the same cause. A third, after having taken what he thinks sufficient, follows the example. The wine is soon afterwards taken away, and this mostly long before the hour of drinking tea. Neither drunkenness, nor any situation approaching to drunkenness, is known in the Quaker companies. Excess in drinking is strictly forbidden by the laws of the society. It is a subject of one of their queries. It is of course a subject that is often brought to their recollection. Whatever may be the faults of the Quakers, they must be acknowledged to be a SOBER PEOPLE.



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