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A Toast or Sentiment very frequently excites good humor, and revives lanquid conversation; often does it, when properly applied, cool the heat of resentment, and blunt the edge of animosity. A well-applied Toast is acknowledged, universally, to sooth the flame of acrimony, when season and reason oft used their efforts to no purpose.
J. Roach, The Royal Toastmaster, London 1791

One activity that certainly occurred in every colonial tavern was toasting. "To the King's Health!" probably being the most common. Here we present a small collection of old toasts that our ancestors may well have uttered.

But first let us digress into the history the practice. The following is taken mainly from the delightful book Toasts: Over 1,500 of the Best Toasts, Sentiments, Blessings and Graces by Paul Dickson (Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1981 and 1991). In addition to the history and examples of the practice the book has a lengthy bibliography for further research.

In ancient Rome Fabius Maximus, Emperor, declared that no man should eat or drink before he had prayed for him and drank to his health. The first recorded instance of a toast being offered in England occurred in 450 AD using wæs hæl "be in health," the origin of our word "wassail."

Dickson quotes an unnamed Englishman as writing: "To drink at table without drinking to the health of some one special would be considered drinking on the sly, and as an act of incivility."

And he gives several pages of advice for effective toasting, the most cogent which is to be well prepared if you plan to be in an appropriate setting. An old toast well memorized or a newly crafted sentiment is much better than an ineffective and token "Cheers!"

So here we give a small sampling of a large field of study and propose a toast to you!

May you learn and practice to be a gracious and witty toaster!

Here's to our ancestors! Without them where would be?

Flagon and Trencher Traditional Toast

To the old, long life and treasure;
To the young, all health and pleasure;
   To the fair, their face,
   With eternal grace,
And the rest, to be loved at leisure.

Ben Jonson

A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry.

Ecclesiastes 10:19

Here's champagne to our real friends
and real pain to our sham friends.
To the militia:
   Invincible in peace;
   invisible in war.
Good company, good wine, good welcome make good people.

Shakespeare

Drink down all unkindness.

Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 1

Better to pay the tavernkeeper than the druggist.

Spanish proverb

It is around the table that friends understand best the warmth of being together.

Old Italian saying

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Benjamin Franklin

Wine is sunshine held together by water.

Galileo Gallilei

Updated 4 December 2006.[top]