In The Book of Gin, Richard Barnett traces the life of this beguiling spirit, once believed to cause a new kind of drunkenness. In the 18th century, gin-craze debauchery (and class conflict) inspired Hogarth's satirical masterpieces "Gin Lane" and "Beer Street". In the 19th century, gin was drunk by Napoleonic War naval heroes, at lavish gin palaces, and by homesick colonials, who mixed it with their bitter anti-malarial tonics.
Americans have long been fascinated with the oddness of the British, but the English, says literary critic Terry Eagleton, find their transatlantic neighbors just as strange. Only an alien race would admiringly refer to a colleague as "aggressive," use superlatives to describe everything from one's pet dog to one's rock collection, or speak frequently of being "empowered."