"aqua-fortis" as liquor [Was: Early texting?]

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Apr 19 17:11:33 UTC 2009

Jesse, is the "aqua-fortis" = 'hard liquor' of _Mrs. Stephens'
Illustrated New Monthly_, 1857 (below), useful?  (Searching Google
Books a bit suggests it is rare; I gave up looking for another.)

Fred, does "one man's meat is another man's poison" come from _Love's
Cure_,early 1600s (see excerpt taken from the _Temple Bar_ below)?

At 4/18/2009 10:59 PM, Mark Mandel wrote:
>Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
>I was thinking of "aqua fortis" to mean 'hard liquor', but OED has
>only the chemical meaning. Still, could it be?

More than plausible (see my evidence below), as appearing just after
the line about having been overdrinking in the past, as Damien Hall observed:

Till DZ I did get myself with drinking punch & BR.
 From love's fever and *AQfortie free, since I've ever BN,

And an interesting find, from Google Books.  This comes up as
"fortie" in searching, but at fairly large magnification of the page
I think it's "fortis".  Also, several issues bound together; in the
PDF the page is 388 of 589.

_Mrs. Stephens' Illustrated New Monthly_, Vol. II., January to June
1857 (New York, 1857), page 95.  (Title page is 296 of 589.)  The
excerpt is from "Robert Steele. A New England Story." By John
Neal.  (An extremely popular author of the early 19th century, and
one of the first American novelists.)

"Some talk followed, and then she added, 'that she had two or three
bottles of old Jamaica spirits, of a most extraordinary flavor, but
as he never tasted of anything of the sort, she supposed it would be
of no use to him.' "Certainly not,' he replied; 'he would not have it
in the house. It would be a treasure to them that knew the worth of
spirits so old---but for him, in was no better than so much aqua-fortis.'"

For a commentary on the chemical/liquorous meaning of "aqua-fortis",
see  _Love's Cure_, Act iii, scene 2 -- or so I find in _Temple Bar
... A London Magazine_, vol. 102, May to August 1894, page 45, where
the writer claims that "the proverb about one man's meat being
another man's poison is first found (if indeed it had not an older
origin)" in it:

Pior[ato]: In all that time he drank me aqua-fortis, And nothing else but---
Bobadilla" Aqua-vitae, signor; For aqua-fortis poisons.
[Pior]: Aqua-fortis I say again: what's one man's poison, signor, Is
another's meat or drink."

Doug Wilson wrote:
>I've found several versions of the poem. In the line in question, the
>commas are scattered at random so it's hard to know how to interpret it.

Yes, in the earlier version I saw in EAN there were commas in other
places in the AQfortie line.


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