The Much-Lamented Death of Madam Geneva
Patrick Dillon

The Much-Lamented Death of Madam Geneva

Introduced from Holland after the Glorious Revolution, gin was meant to provide an economic boost for England’s corn farmers. But instead gin-drinking reached epidemic proportions in the slums of London, where it was sold from shops and market stalls, from basements, even from barrows in the streets.

Early eighteenth-century London was a violent and insecure town. Reformers soon blamed ‘Madam Geneva’ for everything from social decay to rising crime and the collapse of families. Eight major acts were passed in an attempt to control it. When prohibition was – unsuccessfully - introduced in 1736 it was greeted with popular riots and the explosion of a bomb in Westminster Hall. The arguments about gin drew in writers such as Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding, and the campaign for reform reached its climax with the unforgettable image of Hogarth’s ‘Gin Lane’.

This is the story of Madam Geneva’s rise and fall. Gin-drinkers and sellers, politicians and distillers all add their voices to Patrick Dillon’s vivid account of London’s first drug craze, which takes us from the corridors of power to the cornfields of Norfolk, from the pulpits of reformers to the tenements of St Giles in the Fields.

Book Details:

  • Author: Patrick Dillon
  • Published Year: 2003
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Headline
    • US: Justin Charles
Patrick Dillon

Patrick Dillon

PATRICK DILLON was born in London in 1962. Awarded a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, he instead studied architecture in London, and qualified as an architect in 1987. His two crime novels, Truth and Lies, were published by Penguin in 1996 and 1997.In 2002 he combined long-standing interests in history and London with his acclaimed study of the Eighteenth-Century Gin Craze, The Much-Lamented Death of Madam Geneva, published by Headline. Based on lengthy research into original archives, court records and newspapers, Madam Geneva painted a vivid picture of crime, politics and social...
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Book Reviews

  • "Excellent"
    Andrew Marr
  • "Patrick Dillon has researched the history of the 18th-century gin craze in admirable detail... serious history"
    Frank Kermode, The Guardian
  • "A crisp, fast-paced account … Dillon paints a vivid picture of hard-drinking London, high on spirits and speculation … a fascinating tale, ringing with authentic voices"
    Jenny Uglow, Sunday Times
  • "Marvellously vivid... colourful"
    Giles Milton
  • "Marvellous tales ... as crowded with sensational incident as an 18th-century newspaper ... With its manic tempo, Dillon’s prose embodies the relentless energy of the time ... He has, too, a gift for simplifying complex issues"
    Daily Telegraph
  • "Terrific... [an] astonishing book"
    Daily Express
  • "  … as Patrick Dillon makes vividly clear in his fascinating study of the 18th-century gin craze … In an epilogue, Dillon reminds us how history repeats itself, citing the 1920s American prohibition campaign, and the war on drugs currently being waged in the world’s cities."
    Critic’s Choice, Val Hennessy, Daily Mail
  • "Encapsulates a social and political history of early 18th century England … brilliantly brought to life a London of backstreet dram shops and pedlars selling pennyworths."
    The Week
  • "  Gin is both a vividly drawn excursion into the gin-soaked underworld of eigtheenth-century London and a vivid recreation of an event which shaped our modern attitudes to alcohol: this is potent stuff."
    Richard Hamblyn, author of The Invention of Clouds
  • "Very well told … Dillon … after evidently industrious, scholarly research in the archives of the period, has written a frighteningly vivid account of the physically, morally, socially and financially ruinous effects of London’s early excessive fondness of Madam Geneva … Excellent …"
    Patrick Skene Catling, The Irish Times,
  • "  Dillon depicts the birth of modern London … a fascinating and often provocative book giving an insight into the century in which modern Britain began to be formed … This is a great read."
    Wine Magazine,
  • "  This remarkable cultural history … is an illuminating trip through many layers of British Society … Dillon deftly uses his skills as a novelist to bring to life a half-century of debauchery … More importantly for the success of this highly detailed and immensely engaging chronicle, Dillon is a superb researcher … Throughout, Dillon expertly displays the intricate connections between politics and business, pleasure and morality, public policy and illegal consumption … Sophisticated cultural history … the quality of the writing and research,  … are what truly make this worthy of note."
    Publisher’s Weekly
  • "  Harrowing … absorbing … well-researched."
    Atlantic Monthly
  • "Lively … [Dillon has] scoured newspapers, court documents and parliamentary speeches to capture the mood of the times."
    New York Times
  • "  Dillon’s painstaking research in contemporary archives, court records, pamphlets and newspaper reports presents a lively though disturbing story."
    The Scotsman,
  • "Patient and accurate … Food historians and Anglophiles will enjoy the intricate historical research of 18th century London, rife with class dispute, economic rises and falls, and substance abuse blamed for societal detriment and moral decay … Dillon's detailed research allows him to speak with authority, and he beautifully draws a parallel between gin and other struggles of vice reform, such as U.S. Prohibition and its grandchild, the war on drugs … This twist is a stiff, refreshing and intoxicating take on the story of a simple drink."
    San Francisco Chronicle,
  • "Dillon engagingly narrates the events of the troubled half-century. The story is complex and the cast is large; he draws on a rich array of sources and voices … Dillon sets the gin craze in a broad demographic, economic, and social setting … rewarding."