Ed Driscoll

News You Can Use

Drink 60 units of alcohol a day if you want to paint really well,” Sean Thomas of the London Telegraph advises. For those tipplers tuning in from America, Ask.com explains that “One unit of alcohol is usually measured as about 8-10 grams. This equals about one half pint of beer with 3.5% alcohol by volume, about 1 half of a standard glass of wine, or one shot or pub measure of spirits.” Now that we have that out of the way, get drinking:

However, in this season of all seasons, I have good news for me. I’ve been reading a book called Daily Rituals, which describes the work regimes (and drink and drug regimes) of some of the most accomplished artists in history. And it turns out half of them are – or were – total soaks. And when they weren’t downwind of a gallon of Macallan by elevenses they were doped, kinky, or mad, as well.

Here’s an aperitif. For W H Auden, the famed English poet, the day started with a dose of Benzedrine; that is to say: speed. He then fuelled himself to work with coffee and cigs, before starting on the martinis at 6, following on with litres of vino, then popping a Seconal (a downer) at about 11, so he could sleep. Fitfully.

The painter Francis Bacon would have laughed at Auden’s puritan sobriety. He commenced work at the crack of dawn (and he worked hard) but by 11am he was ready to “socialise”. First a friend came over to splice a bottle of wine. Then he repaired to a Soho restaurant for a long boozy lunch, drank through the afternoon, before dining out, going to a nightclub, necking some more wine, moving onto spirits, then visiting a casino, then having another liquor-fuelled meal at a bistro, then popping some sleepers to help him snore away the grog.

It is reliably estimated Francis Bacon drank six bottles of wine a day. He also died at the age of 83, and created some of the most valuable paintings in history.

Read the whole thing — it gets zanier from there, until Thomas gets to Patricia Highsmith, the author of the novels Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, whose eccentricities make all of the above look like teetotaling model citizens.

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