Sober thoughts of Sir Walter Raleigh

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Those filled with despair at the prevalence of binge drinking in 21st-century Britain cannot say they were not warned - Sir Walter Raleigh cautioned over the dangers of alcohol more than 400 years ago.

The one-time favourite of Queen Elizabeth I even wrote a little-known treatise on the matter, warning future generations - and his son, also called Walter, in particular - that excessive alcohol consumption "transformeth a Man into a Beast" and was "a bewitching and infectious Vice" which destroyed health and led to premature ageing.

The surprisingly strong views of the Elizabethan pirate, explorer, navigator, courtier and poet are contained in a rare first edition copy of a book which has surfaced at auction from a British library.

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