Preface by Don Marquis
Writing a preface to a collection of drinking songs is to me at the present time -- I almost said a melancholy pleasure. The adjective "melancholy" is correct, but it is something less than pleasure. By some strange accident I was for years more or less associated in the public mind with the practice of drinking alcoholic liquors, which was prevalent in the United States for a long period. This came about, no doubt, through the creation of a character in a newspaper department which I edited, called "The Old Soak." I found with astonishment, after "The Old Soak" had been going for some time, that all the personal habits of this particular character had been attributed to his author and creator. Now it has been at least six years since I have had a drink of liquor -- well, I won't say that precisely. It has been at least six years since I have had a good snootful of good liquor. Six years is evidently a period not long enough for one to live down a reputation, even when the reputation was accidentally acquired.
To be quite frank, I suppose there must have been, at one time, a period when I was sympathetic to alcohol. Probably I did not think of it as alcohol in those days, but as beer and wine and gin and whisky. No doubt there was some pleasure in it then, but the terrible truth is that I am now not only a teetotaler (practically) as far as my personal habits are concerned, but there is a feeling stirring deep within me which tells me it is possible that eventually I may turn into a Prohibitionist. Maybe I shall go over all my old writing in praise of liquor and carefully strike out all reference to alcohol and insert lines in praise of Coca Cola and chocolate sodas instead.
I wonder how many hours of my life I have wasted looking after drunken friends! Probably if they were all laid end to end they would reach from ground hog's day to Hallowe'en. I suppose at one time there was a kind of pleasure, a sort of feeling that I was being kind and charitable, when I steered a souse to where he lived, or at least where he thought he lived, and put him in bed, or in somebody's bed. Sometimes I have awakened in the morning under strange beds myself without the slightest idea how I got there. Later in life I felt it to be a duty to look after these poor, dissipated nonentities. More recently it has ceased to appeal even to my sense of duty.
I make these remarks as an evidence of the great change that has gradually come over me. It was only within the past six weeks that a very intoxicated acquaintance announced to me at two in the morning that I was elected to take him somewhere and look after him and put him to bed. "Where," he said to me, falling fondly against me, "am I going to sleep tonight?" I leaned him carefully against a doorway and said with cold brutality: "You can sleep in hell for all I care," and left him there.
In fact, as I say, I am (practically) a teetotaler. And if this preface in such an iniquitous book as the present will have any effect to cause the youth of our land to "Stop, Look, and Listen" I shall be only too glad.