Saturday, October 4, 2014

Behind the Scene: Beaumont's Epic Hangover

In this scene, Beaumont, a young Libertine, is waking up with the world's worst hangover. Rochester has returned to town and he and his friends have embarked on a two-week bender to celebrate. Beaumont wakes up at the crack of noon, unusually early for him, to find his university buddy passed out naked behind his bed. He has very little memory of the previous weeks, and tries to use his physical symptoms and bedraggled appearance to figure out what he got up to.

I think there's a tendency of every generation to imagine that they have invented partying. In my years living in Britain, I went to University and worked in a series of bars -- a sleepy pub in seventeenth-century coach house, a pole dancing club where I was hired to be the curvy red-haired bartender (the owner was working on a set of girls to suit every preference. Not weird at all), and an all-night hipster bar with multiple floors, a "chill out" room, and kindly Rastafarians on the decks. Between these jobs and the kind of things that happen during Uni in the UK (airguns, streaking, a friend snorting Pork Scratchings to find everything he eats for the next two weeks tastes of bacon... I could go on) I can vouch for the integrity of this generation's debauchery. 


Thing is, we're not the first people to do it. For the period I'm writing in, Barnabee's Journal by Richard Braithwaite is an excellent source detailing what can be summarized as an epic, meandering pub crawl much like the ones British students embark on today, only a lot longer, and it was written four hundred odd years ago. I think there's a common idea that the kind of manners so key to the Victorian period went right the way back -- after all, they had to come from somewhere, right? -- but this couldn't be further from the truth. One of the reasons why I chose to set Tyburn in the seventeenth century is because you get a lot more freedom in terms of manners and class at this period, particularly under Charles II. After all, Nell Gwyn went from being a common prostitute to the much beloved mistress of the king, and their first son became the Duke of St Albans. 


Another source I drew inspiration from for this scene was Anais Nin's Delta of Venus. They're nothing like each other, to be fair, but her descriptions of opium-fueled orgies always stuck with me, and I wanted to bring something of the hallucinogenic quality to Derby's foggy recollections of the evening.


It hasn't been all smooth sailing, of course. Thinking of the Hellfire Clubs of later years, I threw some nuns into it without thinking, but took them out once I caught my mistake. Catholicism was a dirty secret at this point, which is important to remember, as it's a pretty crucial part of the story. Glad I caught that -- I should know better!


I hope you enjoy reading this when it's out, and you can expect lots more hangovers in the second book of the Southwark Saga, which will be Mark and Jane's story.


Have you ever done anything really crazy when drinking?

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