In Chapter 37, of Anthony Trollope's, The Last Chronicle of Barset


a sign in Hook Court advertises "Burton and Bangles, Himalaya Wines".

The establishment is undoubtedly a wine merchant, with a sideline in money-lending, but why "Himalaya". I guess that this is an unlikely geographical origin for wine (in the 1860s, anyway). Was "Himalaya" used to imply "high quality"? Or was it just arbitrary branding?

1 Answer 1


“Himalaya Wines” seems to be satirical. The Last Chronicle of Barset was first published in monthly installments starting in December 1866, only a few years after the Cobden–Chevalier Treaty of 1860 between Britain and France had substantially reduced the duties on wine, leading to large increases in imports of that commodity.

By that treaty, in consideration of certain concessions about to be made by the French Government in the import duties on British produce, England undertook to reduce the wine duty to 3s. per gallon at once, and to establish a scale of duty from the 1st of April, 1861, for charging wine according to the degree of alcoholic strength. Accordingly a law was passed by which from the 4th of April, 1862, the duty should be 1s. per gallon on all wines containing less than 26 degrees of proof spirit […].

Short as is the time elapsed since the introduction of this change, the results have already been quite extraordinary, both in the imports and consumption of wine. For ten years, from 1850 to 1859 inclusive, the average importation of wine was 9,000,000 gallons. Since, then, by gradual steps, the importation increased to 15,500,000 gallons in 1864, and about 14,000,000 gallons in 1865, showing a vast increase in the last six years.

Leone Levi (1866). On the Wine Trade & Wine Duties, pp. 8–9. London: Effingham Wilson.

These imports came, not just from France, but from more distant wine-producing countries, allowing Britons to try “new kinds of wine, unknown to our fathers” (Robert Druitt (1865), Report on the Cheap Wines from France, Italy, Austria, Greece, and Hungary, p. 1).

The idea in The Last Chronicle of Barset seems to be that if cheap wines could now be imported from Greece or Hungary, why not from as far as the Himalayas too? The price advertised by Burton and Bangles (22s 6d per dozen, or 1s 10½d per bottle) seems to be a mid-market price for the 1860s, not suspiciously cheap, but hardly likely to defray the cost of transport from India.

So another way to take the sign is as a pointer to fraudulent dealing: in the 1860s, there was as yet no wine industry in the Himalayas, so that Burton and Bangles cannot be selling what they are advertising. Perhaps the wine is in fact the cheapest of French vin de table, adulterated with sugar and coloured with cochineal or the recently invented aniline dye. Some doubt as to its quality certainly seems to be indicated by Trollope a little later in the chapter, when we learn that Dobbs Broughton possessed, at his place of business:

a cellaret, which was generally well supplied with wine which Dobbs Broughton did not get out of the vaults of his neighbours, Burton and Bangles.

Robert Merrett suggested that the potentially fraudulent nature of the wines sold at Hook Court symbolized the character of the men who set up business there:

Such fantastic wines signify Broughton’s illusory capitalism: a shady dealer in the money-market whose marriage is a sham, he is an alcoholic who kills himself.

Robert James Merrett (1991). ‘Port and Claret: The Politics of Wine in Trollope's Barsetshire Novels’. In Mosaic: an Interdisciplinary Critical Journal 24:3, p. 120.

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