to riot themselves away

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Senior Member
Hi folks, this is cited from Redburn by Hermann Melville (1849)

Q: what does to riot themselves away? Does it mean to rebel o r get drunk etc?

Thus, because the sailor, who to-day steers the Hibernia or Unicorn steam-ship across the Atlantic, is a somewhat different man from the exaggerated sailors of Smollett, and the men who fought with Nelson at Copenhagen, and survived to riot themselves away at North Corner in Plymouth;
  • graydoggames

    French - Québec
    I managed to understand it due to context, but only because I know a lot about Nelson/Napoleon, and know what happened to the sailors. This is very old English, not sure why they wrote to-day that way. Basically means that those who fought on boats with Nelson never completely recovering from the fighting (partly because Nelson died during the battle) and never touched boats or sailing again, rioting against the sailor life. The author means to say the current sailors (who cross the Atlantic) are nowhere near as good as those who fought for Nelson or worked under Smolett, but then again aren't destroying their life/career.

    Hope that makes sense.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    to riot themselves away at North Corner in Plymouth;
    North Corner in Plymouth is considered to be the place at which the Royal Navy Dockyard, now known as Devonport originated, so obviously there would be a lot of sailors in the area.

    "To riot oneself away" means to squander one's life away by behaving in a riotous manner - here "in a riotous" = "doing everything in a disorganised manner - to excess: eating, drinking, women, etc."
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