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Tobacco From A Moral Stand-point |

What Could He Do?
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Primus To His Uncle
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A Covnter-blaste To Tobacco
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His Wife's Cigars
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Signs Of Revival
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House-boat Arcadia
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Arcadians At Bay
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My Brother Henry
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Early Victorian Days
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Pettigrew's Dream
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The Ghost Of Christmas Eve
A few years ago, as some may remember, a startling ghost...

Tobacco Triumphant: Smoking Fashionable And Universal

Tobacco engages
Both sexes, all ages,
The poor as well as the wealthy;
From the court to the cottage,
From childhood to dotage,
Both those that are sick and the healthy.

_Wits' Recreations_, 1640.

This chapter and the next deal with the history of smoking during the
first fifty years after its introduction as a social habit--roughly to

The use of tobacco spread with extraordinary rapidity among all
classes of society. During the latter part of Queen Elizabeth's reign
and through the early decades of the seventeenth century tobacco-pipes
were in full blast. Tobacco was triumphant.

Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about smoking at this period, from
the social point of view, was its fashionableness. One of the marked
characteristics of the gallant--the beau or dandy or swell of the
time--was his devotion to tobacco. Earle says that a gallant was one
that was born and shaped for his clothes--but clothes were only a part
of his equipment. Bishop Hall, satirizing the young man of fashion in
1597, describes the delicacies with which he was accustomed to
indulge his appetite, and adds that, having eaten, he Quaffs a whole
tunnel of tobacco smoke; and old Robert Burton, in satirically
enumerating the accomplishments of a complete, a well-qualified
gentleman, names to take tobacco with a grace, with hawking,
riding, hunting, card-playing, dicing and the like. The qualifications
for a gallant were described by another writer in 1603 as to make
good faces, to take Tobacco well, to spit well, to laugh like a
waiting gentlewoman, to lie well, to blush for nothing, to looke big
upon little fellowes, to scoffe with a grace ... and, for a neede, to
ride prettie and well.

A curious feature of tobacco-manners among fashionable smokers of the
period was the practice of passing a pipe from one to another, after
the fashion of the loving cup. There is a scene in Greene's Tu
Quoque, 1614, laid in a fashionable ordinary, where the London
gallants meet as usual, and one says to a companion who is smoking:
Please you to impart your smoke? Very willingly, sir, says the
smoker. Number two takes a whiff or two and courteously says: In good
faith, a pipe of excellent vapour! The owner of the pipe then
explains that it is the best the house yields, whereupon the other
immediately depreciates it, saying affectedly: Had you it in the
house? I thought it had been your own: 'tis not so good now as I took
it for! Another writer of this time speaks of one pipe of tobacco
sufficing three or four men at once.

The rich young gallant carried about with him his tobacco apparatus
(often of gold or silver) in the form of tobacco-box,
tobacco-tongs--wherewith to lift a live coal to light his pipe, ladle
for the cold snuffe into the nosthrill, and priming-iron. Sometimes
the tobacco-box was of ivory; and occasionally a gallant would have
looking-glass set in his box, so that when he took it out to obtain
tobacco, he could at the same time have a view of his own delectable
person. When our gallant went to dine at the ordinary, according to
the custom of the time, he brought out these possessions, and smoked
while the dinner was being served. Before dinner, after taking a few
turns up and down Paul's Walk in the old cathedral, he might look into
the booksellers' shops, and, pipe in mouth, inquire for the most
recent attack upon the divine weed--the contemporary tobacco
literature was abundant--or drop into an apothecary's, which was
usually a tobacco-shop also, and there meet his fellow-smokers.

In the afternoon the gallant might attend what Dekker calls a
Tobacco-ordinary, by which may possibly have been meant a
smoking-club, or, more probably, the gathering after dinner at one of
the many ordinaries in the neighbourhood of St. Paul's Cathedral of
tobacconists, as smokers were then called, to discuss the merits of
their respective pipes, and of the various kinds of tobacco--whether
your Cane or your Pudding be sweetest.

Of course he often bragged, like Julio in Day's Law Trickes:
Tobacco? the best in Europe, 't cost me ten Crownes an ounce, by this

An amusing example of the bragging tobacconist is pictured for us in
Ben Jonson's Bobadil. Bobadil may perhaps be somewhat of an
exaggerated caricature, but it is probable that the dramatist in
drawing him simply exaggerated the characteristic traits of many
smokers of the day. This hero, drawing tobacco from his pocket,
declares that it is all that is left of seven pounds which he had
bought only yesterday was seven-night. A consumption of seven pounds
of tobacco in eight days is a pretty tall order! Then he goes on to
brag of its quality--your right Trinidado--and to assert that he had
been in the Indies, where the herb grows, and where he himself and a
dozen other gentlemen had for the space of one-and-twenty weeks known
no other nutriment than the fume of tobacco. This again was tolerably
steep even for this Falstaff-like braggart. He continues with more
bombast in praise of the medicinal virtues of the herb--virtues which
were then very firmly and widely believed in--and is replied to by
Cob, the anti-tobacconist, who, with equal exaggeration on the other
side, denounces tobacco, and declares that four people had died in one
house from the use of it in the preceding week, and that one had
voided a bushel of soot!

The properly accomplished gallant not only professed to be curiously
learned in pipes and tobacco, but his knowledge of prices and their
fluctuations, of the apothecaries' and other shops where the herb was
sold, and of the latest and most fashionable ways of inhaling and
exhaling the smoke, was, like Mr. Weller's knowledge of London,
extensive and peculiar. It was knowledge of this kind that gained
for a gallant reputation and respect by no means to be acquired by
mere scholarship and learning.

The satirical Dekker might class tobacconists with feather-makers,
cobweb-lawne-weavers, perfumers, young country gentlemen and fools,
but he bears invaluable witness to the devotion of the fashionable
men of the day to the costlye and gentleman-like Smoak.

It was customary for a man to carry a case of pipes about with him. In
a play of 1609 (Everie Woman in her Humour) there is an inventory of
the contents of a gentleman's pocket, with a value given for each
item, which displays certainly a curious assortment of articles. First
comes a brush and comb worth fivepence, and next a looking-glass worth
three halfpence. With these aids to vanity are a case of tobacco-pipes
valued at fourpence, half an ounce of tobacco valued at sixpence, and
three pence in coin, or, as it is quaintly worded, in money and
golde. Satirists of course made fun of the smoker's pocketful of
apparatus. A pamphleteer of 1609 says: I behelde pipes in his pocket;
now he draweth forth his tinder-box and his touchwood, and falleth to
his tacklings; sure his throat is on fire, the smoke flyeth so fast
from his mouth.

It may be noted, by the way, that the gallant had no hesitation about
smoking in the presence of ladies. Gostanzo, in Chapman's All Fools,
1605, says:

_And for discourse in my fair mistress's presence
I did not, as you barren gallants do,
Fill my discourses up drinking tobacco._

And in Ben Jonson's Every Man out of his Humour, 1600, Fastidious
Brisk, a neat, spruce, affecting courtier, smokes while he talks to
his mistress. A feather-headed gallant, when in the presence of
ladies, often found himself, like others of his tribe of later date,
gravelled for lack of matter for conversation, and the puffing of
tobacco-smoke helped to occupy the pauses.

When our gallant went to the theatre he loved to occupy one of the
stools at the side of the stage. There he could sit and smoke and
embarrass the actors with his audible criticisms of play and players.

_It chaunc'd me gazing at the Theater,
To spie a Lock-Tabacco Chevalier
Clowding the loathing ayr with foggie fume
Of Dock Tobacco friendly foe to rhume_--

says a versifier of 1599, who did not like smoking in the theatre and
so abused the quality of the tobacco smoked--though admitting its
medicinal virtue. Dekker suggests, probably with truth, that one
reason why the young gallant liked to push his way to a stool on the
stage, notwithstanding the mewes and hisses of the opposed
rascality--the mewes must have been the squeals or whistles
produced by the instrument which was later known as a cat-call--was
the opportunity such a prominent position afforded for the display of
the best and most essential parts of a gallant--good cloathes, a
proportionable legge, white hand, the Persian lock, and a tolerable
beard. Apparently, too, serving-boys were within call, and thus
lights could easily be obtained, which were handed to one another by
the smokers on the points of their swords.

Ben Jonson has given us an amusing picture of the behaviour of
gallants on the Elizabethan stage, in his Cynthia's Revels. In this
scene a child thus mimics the obtrusive beau: Now, sir, suppose I am
one of your genteel auditors, that am come in (having paid my money at
the door, with much ado), and here I take my place, and sit downe. I
have my three sorts of tobacco in my pocket, my light by me, and thus
I begin. 'By this light, I wonder that any man is so mad, to come to
see these rascally tits play here--they do act like so many wrens--not
the fifth part of a good face amongst them all--and then their musick
is abominable--able to stretch a man's ears worse than ten--pillories,
and their ditties--most lamentable things, like the pitiful fellows
that make them--poets. By this vapour--an't were not for tobacco--I
think--the very smell of them would poison me, I should not dare to
come in at their gates. A man were better visit fifteen jails--or a
dozen or two hospitals--than once adventure to come near them.' And
the young rascal, who at each pause marked by a dash had puffed his
pipe, no doubt blowing an extra large cloud when he swore by this
vapour, turns to his companions and says: How is't? Well? and they
pronounce his mimicry Excellent!

Smoking was not confined to the auditors on the stage, who paid
sixpence each for a stool. There was the lords' room over the stage,
which seems to have corresponded with the modern stage boxes, the
price of admission to which appears to have been a shilling, where the
pipe was also in full blast. Dekker tells how a gallant at a new play
would take a place in the twelve penny room, next the stage, because
the lords and you may seem to be hail fellow, well met; and Jonson,
in Every Man out of his Humour, 1600, speaks of one who pretended
familiarity with courtiers, that he talked of them as if he had taken
tobacco with them over the stage, in the lords' room.

Among the general audience of the theatre smoking seems to have been
usual also. The anti-tobacconists among those present, few of whom
were men, must have suffered by the practice. In that admirable
burlesque comedy by Beaumont and Fletcher, The Knight of the Burning
Pestle, 1613, the citizen's wife, addressing herself either to the
gallants on the stage, or to her fellow-spectators sitting around her,
exclaims: Fy! This stinking tobacco kills men! Would there were none
in England! Now I pray, gentlemen, what good does this stinking
tobacco do you? Nothing, I warrant you; make chimneys a' your faces!
But many women viewed tobacco differently, as we shall see in the
chapter on Smoking by Women. Moreover, this good woman herself, in
the epilogue to the burlesque, invites the gentlemen whom she has
before abused for smoking, to come to her house where she will
entertain them with a pottle of wine, and a pipe of tobacco.

Hentzner, the German traveller, who visited London in 1598, speaks of
smoking being customary among the audience at plays, who were also
supplied with fruits, such as apples, pears and nuts, according to
the season, carried about to be sold, as well as ale and wine. He was
struck with the universal prevalence of the tobacco-habit. Not only at
plays, but everywhere else, he says, the English are constantly
smoking tobacco, and then he proceeds to describe how they did it:
They have pipes on purpose made of clay, into the further end of
which they put the herb, so dry that it may be rubbed into powder; and
putting fire to it, they draw the smoak into their mouths, which they
puff out again through their nostrils, like funnels, along with it
plenty of phlegm and defluxions from the head. This suggests that
the unpleasant and quite unnecessary habit of spitting was common with
these early smokers, a suggestion which is amply supported by other
contemporary evidence.

Tobacco was smoked by all classes and in almost all places. It was
smoked freely in the streets. In some verses prefixed to an edition of
Skelton's Elinour Rumming which appeared in 1624, the ghost of
Skelton, who was poet-laureate to King Henry VIII, was made to say
that he constantly saw smoking:

_As I walked between
Westminster Hall
And the Church of Saint Paul,
And so thorow the citie,
Where I saw and did pitty
My country men's cases,
With fiery-smoke faces,
Sucking and drinking
A filthie weede stinking._

Tobacco-selling was sometimes curiously combined with other trades. A
Fleet Street tobacconist of this time was also a dealer in worsted
stockings. A mercer of Mansfield who died at the beginning of 1624,
and who apparently carried on business also at Southwell, had a
considerable stock of tobacco. In the Inventory of all his cattalles
and goods which is dated 24 January 1624, there is included It. in
Tobacco 0. 0. Nineteen pounds' worth of tobacco, considering
the then value of money, was no small stock for a mercer-tobacconist
to carry.

But the apothecaries were the most usual salesmen, and their shops
and the ordinaries were the customary day meeting-places for the more
fashionable smokers. The taverns and inns, however, were also filled
with smoke, and taverns were frequented by men of all social grades.
Dekker speaks of the gallant leaving the tavern at night when the
spirit of wine and tobacco walkes in his train. On the occasion of
the accession of James I, 1603, when London was given up to rejoicing
and revelry, we are told that tobacconists [_i.e._ smokers] filled up
whole Tavernes.

King James himself is an unwilling witness to the popularity of
tobacco. He tells us that a man could not heartily welcome his friend
without at once proposing a smoke. It had become, he says, a point of
good-fellowship, and he that would refuse to take a pipe among his
fellows was accounted peevish and no good company. Yea, he
continues, with rising indignation, the mistress cannot in a more
mannerly kind entertain her servant than by giving him out of her fair
hand a pipe of tobacco.

Smoking was soon as common in the country as in London. On Wednesday,
April 16, 1621, in the course of a debate in the House of Commons, Sir
William Stroud, who seems to have been a worthy disciple of that
tobacco-hater, King James I, moved that he would have tobacco
banished wholly out of the kingdom, and that it may not be brought in
from any part, nor used amongst us; and Sir Grey Palmes said that if
tobacco be not banished, it will overthrow 100,000 men in England, for
now it is so common that he hath seen ploughmen take it as they are at
plough. Perhaps this terrible picture of a ploughman smoking as he
followed his lonely furrow did not impress the House so much as Sir
Grey evidently thought it would; at all events, tobacco was not

Peers and squires and parsons and peasants alike smoked. The parson of
Thornton, in Buckinghamshire, was so devoted to tobacco that when his
supply of the weed ran short, he is said to have cut up the bell-ropes
and smoked them! This is dated about 1630. In the well-known
description of the famous country squire, Mr. Hastings, who was
remarkable for keeping up old customs in the early years of the
seventeenth century, we read of how his hall tables were littered with
hawks' hoods, bells, old hats with their crowns thrust in, full of
pheasants' eggs; tables, dice, cards, and store of tobacco-pipes.

Sir Francis Vere, in the account of his services by sea and land which
he wrote about 1606, mentions that on an expedition to the Azores in
1597, the Earl of Essex, waiting for news of the enemy at St. Michael,
called for tobacco ... and so on horseback, with those Noblemen and
Gentlemen on foot beside him, took tobacco, whilst I was telling his
Lordship of the men I had sent forth, and orders I had given.
Presently came the sound of guns, which made his Lordship cast his
pipe from him, and listen to the shooting.

Another famous nobleman, Lord Herbert of Cherbury--

_All-virtuous Herbert! on whose every part
Truth might spend all her voice, fame all her art!--_

was a smoker, as we know from a very curious passage in his well-known
autobiography. He appears to have smoked not so much for pleasure as
for supposed reasons of health. It is well known, he wrote, to
those that wait in my chamber, that the shirts, waistcoats, and other
garments I wear next my body, are sweet, beyond what either can easily
be believed, or hath been observed in any else, which sweetness also
was found to be in my breath above others, before I used to take
tobacco, which towards my latter time I was forced to take against
certain rheums and catarrhs that trouble me, which yet did not taint
my breath for any long time. The autobiography was written about
1645, so as Lord Herbert did not smoke till towards the latter part of
his life--he died in 1648--he clearly was not one of those who took to
tobacco in the first enthusiasm for the new indulgence.

When Robert, Earl of Essex, and Henry, Earl of Southampton, were tried
for high treason in Westminster Hall on February 19, 1600-1, the
members of the House of Lords, who with the Judges formed the Court,
if we may believe the French Ambassador of the time, behaved in a
remarkable and unseemly manner. In a letter to Monsieur de Rohan, the
Ambassador declared that while the Earls and the Counsel were
pleading, their lordships guzzled and smoked; and that when they gave
their votes condemning the two Earls, they were stupid with eating and
yvres de tabac--drunk with smoking. This was probably quite untrue
as a representation of what actually took place; but it would hardly
have been written had smoking not been a common practice among noble

Queen Elizabeth's Secretary of State, Sir Robert Cecil, would appear
to have been a smoker. In a letter addressed to him, John Watts, an
alderman of London, wrote: According to your request, I have sent
the greatest part of my store of tobaca by the bearer, wishing that
the same may be to your good liking. But this tobaca I have had this
six months, which was such as my son brought home, but since that time
I have had none. At this period there is none that is good to be had
for money. Wishing you to make store thereof, for I do not know where
to have the like, I have sent you of two sorts. Mincing Lane, 12 Dec.

A curious scene took place at Oxford in 1605 when King James visited
the University. Two subjects were debated by learned dons before his
Majesty, and one of them, at his own suggestion, was, Whether the
frequent use of tobacco is good for healthy men? Among those who
spoke were Doctors Ailworth, Gwyn, Gifford and Cheynell. The
discussion, needless to say, being conducted in the presence of the
author of the Counterblaste to Tobacco, was not favourable to the
herb. The King summed up in a speech which hopelessly begged the
question while it contained plenty of strong denunciation. After his
Majesty had spoken, one learned doctor, Cheynell, who is described by
the recorder, Isaac Wake, the Public Orator of the University, as
second to none of the doctors, had the courage to rise and, with a
pipe held forth in his hand, to speak both wittily and eloquently in
favour of tobacco from the medicinal point of view, praising it to the
skies, says Wake, as of virtue beyond all other remedial agents. His
wit pleased both the King and the whole assembly, whom it moved to
laughter; but when he had finished, his Majesty made a lengthy
rejoinder in which he said some curious things. He objected to the
medicinal use of tobacco, and quite agreed with previous speakers
that such a use must have arisen among Barbarians and Indians, who he
went on to say had as much knowledge of medicine as they had of
civilized customs. If, he argued, there were men whose bodies were
benefited by tobacco-smoke, this did not so much redound to the credit
of tobacco, as it did reflect upon the depraved condition of such men,
that their bodies should have sunk to the level of those of Barbarians
so as to be affected by remedies such as were effective on the bodies
of Barbarians and Indians! His Majesty kindly suggested that doctors
who believed in tobacco as a remedial agent should take themselves and
their medicine of pollution off to join the Indians.

Next: Abuse And Praise Of Tobacco

Previous: The First Pipes Of Tobacco Smoked In England

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