Smoking In The Twentieth Century

Sweet when the morn is grey;

Sweet, when they've clear'd away

Lunch; and at close of day

Possibly sweetest.


Tobacco is once more triumphant. The cycle of three hundred years is

complete. Since the early decades of the seventeenth century, smoking

has never been so generally practised nor so smiled upon by fashion as
it is at the present time. Men in their attitude towards tobacco have

always been divisible into three classes--those who respected and

followed and obeyed the conventions of society and the dictates of

fashion, and smoked or did not smoke in accordance therewith; those

who knew those conventions but disregarded them and smoked as and what

they pleased; and those who neither knew nor cared whether such

conventions existed, or what fashion might say, but smoked as and

what, and when and where they pleased. At the present time the three

classes tend to combine into one. There are, it is true, a few

conventions and restrictions left; but they are not very strong, and

will probably disappear one of these days. There is also, of course,

and always has been, a fourth class of men, who for one reason or

another, quite apart from what fashion may say or do, do not smoke at


Perhaps the most absurd and unmeaning of the restrictions that remain,

is that which at certain times and in certain places admits the

smoking of cigars and cigarettes and forbids the smoking of pipes. The

idea appears to be that a pipe is vulgar. There are few restaurants

now in which smoking is not allowed after dinner; but the

understanding is that cigars and cigarettes only shall be smoked. In

some places of resort there are notices exhibited which specifically

prohibit the smoking of pipes. Why? At a smoking concert where few

pipes are smoked, anyone looking

_Athwart the smoke of burning weeds_

can at once realize how much greater is the volume of smoke from

cigars and cigarettes than would result from the smoking of a like

number of pipes. It cannot, therefore, be that pipes are barred

because of a supposed greater effect upon the atmosphere of the room.

The only conclusion the observer can come to is, that the fashionable

attitude towards pipes is one of the last relics of the old social

attitude--the attitude of Georgian and Early Victorian days--towards

smoking of any kind. The cigar and the cigarette were first introduced

among the upper classes of society, and their use has spread downward.

They have broken down many barriers, and in many places, and under

many and divers conditions, the pipe has followed triumphantly in

their wake; but the last ditch of the old prejudice has been found in

the convention, which, in certain places and at certain times, admits

the cigar and cigarette of fashionable origin, but bars the entry of

the plebeian pipe--the pipe which for two centuries was practically

the only mode of smoking used or known.

An article which appeared in the _Morning Post_ of February 20, 1913,

may be regarded as a sign of the times. It was entitled A Plea for

the Pipe: By one who Smokes it. I should like, said the writer,

pipe-men of all degrees to ask themselves whether the time has not

really arrived to enter a protest against the convention which forces

the pipe into a position of inferiority, and exalts to a pinnacle of

undeserved pre-eminence the cigar, and still more the cigarette ...

why should it be considered a mark of vulgarity, of plebeianism, to

inhale tobacco-smoke through the stem of a briar, and the hall-mark of

good breeding to finger a cigar or dally with that triviality and

travesty of the adoration of My Lady Nicotine--a cigarette? To these

questions there can be but one answer: and the future, there can be

little doubt, will emphasize that answer, and abolish the unmeaning


The prejudice against the pipe is not confined to places of indoor

resort. There are many men who smoke pipes within doors, who yet would

not care to be seen in London smoking a pipe in the street, or in the

park. In some circumstances this is quite intelligible. The writer of

the _Morning Post_ article remarked with much force and good sense

that Apart from social environment, there is a certain affinity

between pipes and clothes. It is considered 'bad form' for a man in a

frock-coat and silk hat to be seen smoking a pipe in the streets. If

you are wearing a bowler hat and a lounge suit you may walk along

with a briar protruding from your lips, and no one will think ill of

you. If you are a son of toil garbed in your habit as you work, there

is nothing incongruous in a well-seasoned clay or a 'nose-warmer,'

which, for convenience, you carry upside down. Not so very long ago it

was considered unseemly to smoke a pipe at all in the street unless

you belonged to the humbler orders, who inhale their nicotine through

the stem of a clay and expectorate with a greater sense of freedom

than of responsibility.

At a few clubs there are still some curious and rather unmeaning

restrictions. A particularly absurd rule that maintains its ground

here and there, is that which forbids smoking in the library of a

club. What more appropriate place could there be for the thoughtful

consumption of tobacco than among the books? But after due allowance

has been made for a few minor restrictions of this kind, the fact

remains that smoking has triumphed socially all along the line in

Clubland. We have travelled far from the days when a committee man

could declare that No Gentleman smoked, to the time when, for

example, the large smoking-room at Brooks's is one of the finest rooms

in one of the most famous and exclusive of clubs. This splendid room

in the eighteenth-century days of gambling was the Grand Subscription

Room--the gambling room of Georgian times. It still retains two of

the old gaming tables. Now this magnificent apartment, with its

splendid barrelled ceiling, which a well-known architectural writer,

Mr. Stanley C. Ramsey, A.R.I.B.A., describes as probably the finest

room of its kind in London, is the temple of Saint Nicotine. The

strangers' smoking-room in the same club, formerly the dining-room,

is another beautiful and delightfully decorated apartment. Similar

transformations have been witnessed in other clubs.

Barry's original plan for the Travellers' Club, erected in 1832, shows

no smoking-room on the ground floor. It was probably some inconvenient

apartment of no account. The early Travellers did smoke, for

Theodore Hook, satirizing them and the club rule that no person was

eligible as a member who had not travelled out of the British Islands

to a distance of at least 500 miles from London in a direct line,


_The travellers are in Pall Mall, and smoke cigars so


And dream they climb the highest Alps, or rove the

plains of Moselai,

The world for them has nothing new, they have explored

all parts of it;

And now they are club-footed! and they sit and look at

charts of it._

The present-day smoking-room at the Travellers' is a noble apartment,

which was originally the coffee-room. It occupies the whole of the

ground-floor front to the gardens of Carlton House Terrace, and is

divided into three bays by the projection of square piers.

Another sign of the complete change which has come over the attitude

of most folk towards tobacco is to be seen in the permission of

smoking at meetings of committees and councils, where not so long ago

such an indulgence would have been regarded as an outrage. Many of the

committees of municipal councils and other public bodies now permit

smoking while business is proceeding. It has even become usual for

members of the House of Commons to smoke in committee rooms when the

sitting is private; and cigars and cigarettes and pipes are now

lighted in the lobby the moment that the House has risen. A very thin

line thus separates the legislative chamber itself from the conquering

weed. A further step forward (or backward, according to each reader's

judgment) was taken on July 21, 1913, when smoking was allowed at the

sitting of the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills--one of the

committees which does not conduct its business in private. On this

occasion, after the luncheon interval, two members entered the

committee room smoking, one a cigarette the other a cigar. The former

was soon finished; but the latter continued to shed its fragrance on

the room. Naturally the chairman, Mr. Arthur Henderson, was appealed

to. He gave a diplomatic reply. It had been held, he said, by two

chairmen that smoking was not in order at the public sessions of a

Standing Committee; and, of course, if his ruling were formally asked

he would be bound to follow precedent. He said this with a suavity and

a smile which disarmed any possible objector. Nobody raised the formal

point of order; so other members lighted up, and the proceedings

went on peacefully to the appointed hour of closing.

Yet another sign of the times was the permission given not so very

long ago to the drivers of taxi-cabs to smoke while driving fares--a

development regarding which there may well be two opinions.

The number of cigarette-smokers nowadays is legion; but to a very

large number of tobacconists (in the old sense of the word) a pipe

remains the most satisfactory of smokes. A cigar or a cigarette

is--and it is not; the pipe renders its service again and again and

yet remains--a steadfast companion. Over a pipe is a phrase of more

meaning than over a cigarette. Discussions are best conducted over a

pipe. No one can get too excited or over-heated in argument, no one

can neglect the observance of the amenities of conversation, who talks

thoughtfully between the pulls at his pipe, who has to pause now and

again to refill, to strike a light, to knock out the ashes, or to

perform one of those numberless little acts of devotion at the shrine

of St. Nicotine, which fill up the pauses and conduce to reflection.

The Indians were wise in their generation when they made the

circulation of the pipe an essential part of their pow-wows. A

conference founded on the mutual consumption of tobacco was likely,

not, as the frivolous would say, to end in smoke, but to lead to solid

and lasting results. The fact is, squire, said Sam Slick, the

moment a man takes a pipe he becomes a philosopher. The pipe, says

Thackeray, draws wisdom from the lips of the philosopher, and shuts

up the mouth of the foolish; it generates a style of conversation,

contemplative, thoughtful, benevolent and unaffected.... May I die if

I abuse that kindly weed which has given me so much pleasure.

And what more fitting emblem of peace could be chosen than the

calumet, the proffered pipe? Tobacco, whatever its enemies may have

said, or may yet say, is the friend of peace, the foe of strife, and

the promoter of geniality and good fellowship. Mrs. Battle, whose

serious energies were all given to the great game of whist, unbent her

mind, we are told, over a book. Most men unbend over a pipe, even if

the book is an accompaniment.

To the solitary man the well-seasoned tube is an invaluable companion.

If he happen, once in a way, to have nothing special to do and plenty

of time in which to do it, he naturally fills his pipe as he draws the

easy-chair on to the hearthrug, and knows not that he is lonely. If he

have a difficult problem to solve, he just as naturally attacks it

over a pipe. It is true that as the smoke-wreaths ring themselves

above his head, his mind may wander off into devious paths of reverie,

and the problem be utterly forgotten. Well, that is, at least,

something for which to be grateful, for the paths of reverie are the

paths of pleasantness and peace, and problems can usually afford to


Over a pipe! Why the words bring up innumerable pleasant

associations. The angler, having caught the coveted prize, refills his

pipe, and with the satisfied sense of duty done, as the rings curl

upward he reviews the struggle and glows again with victory. At the

end of any day's occupation, especially one of pleasurable

toil--whether it be shooting or hunting, or walking or what not--what

can be pleasanter than to let the mind meander through the course of

the day's proceedings over a pipe?

There is much wisdom in Robert Louis Stevenson's remarks in

Virginibus Puerisque--Lastly (and this is, perhaps, the golden

rule), no woman should marry a teetotaller, or a man who does not

smoke. It is not for nothing that this 'ignoble tabagie,' as Michelet

calls it, spreads over all the world. Michelet rails against it

because it renders you happy apart from thought or work; to provident

women this will seem no evil influence in married life. Whatever

keeps a man in the front garden, whatever checks wandering fancy and

all inordinate ambition, whatever makes for lounging and contentment,

makes just so surely for domestic happiness.

Nothing is more marked in the change in the social attitude towards

tobacco than the revolution which has taken place in woman's view of

smoking. The history of smoking by women is dealt with separately in

the next chapter; but here it may be noted that most of the old

intolerance of tobacco has disappeared. To smoke in Hyde Park, said

the late Lady Dorothy Nevill, in 1907, even up to comparatively

recent years, was looked upon as absolutely unpardonable, while

smoking anywhere with a lady would have been classed as an almost

disgraceful social crime.

Women do not nowadays shun the smell of smoke as they did in early

Victorian days, as if it were the most dreadful of odours. They are

tolerant of smoking in their presence, in public places, in

restaurants--in fact, wherever men and women congregate--to a degree

that would have horrified extremely their mothers and grandmothers. It

is only within the last few years that visits to music-halls and

theatres of varieties have been socially possible to ladies. Men go

largely because they can smoke during the performance; women go

largely because they have ceased to consider tobacco-smoke as a thing

to be rigidly avoided, and therefore have no hesitation in

accompanying their menfolk.

The observant visitor to the promenade concerts annually given in the

Queen's Hall, Langham Place, will notice that but one small section of

the grand circle is reserved for non-smokers, while smoking is freely

allowed (with no absurd ban on the friendly pipe) in every other part

of the great auditorium--floor, circle and balcony.

There are still some people who share the Duke of Wellington's

delusion that smoking promotes drinking, although experience proves

the contrary, and historic evidence, especially as regards drinking

after dinner, shows that it was the introduction of the cigar,

followed by that of the cigarette, which absolutely killed the old,

bad after-dinner habits. The Salvation Army do not enforce total

abstinence from tobacco as well as from alcoholic drinks as a

condition of membership or soldiership, but a member of the Army must

be a non-smoker before he can hold any office in its rank, or be a

bandsman, or a member of a songster brigade. And in other religious

organizations there are yet a few of the unco' guid who look askance

at pipe or cigarette as if it were a device of the devil. But the

numbers of these misguided folk become fewer every year.

Smoking in the dining-room after dinner is now so general that people

are apt to forget that this particular development is of no great age.

It is not yet, however, universal. A valued correspondent tells me

that he knows a house where tobacco is still kept out of the

dining-room, and smoke indulged in elsewhere after wine. This

old-fashioned habit must now be pretty rare.

The chief legitimate objection to cigarette smoking was well stated

some years ago by the late Dr. Andrew Wilson. I think cigarettes are

apt to prove injurious, he said, because a man will smoke far too

much when he indulges in this form of the weed, and because I think it

is generally admitted that cigarettes are apt to produce evil effects

out of all proportion to the amount of tobacco which is apparently

consumed. Excess can equally be found among cigar and pipe-smokers.

The late Chancellor Parish, in his Dictionary of the Sussex Dialect,

tells a delightful story of a Sussex rustic's holiday--May be you

knows Mass [Master, the distinctive title of a married labourer]

Pilbeam? No! doaent ye? Well, he was a very sing'lar marn was Mass

Pilbeam, a very sing'lar marn! He says to he's mistus one day, he

says, 'tis a long time, says he, sence I've took a holiday--so

cardenly, nex marnin' he laid abed till purty nigh seven o'clock, and

then he brackfustes, and then he goos down to the shop and buys fower

ounces of barca, and he sets hisself down on the maxon [manure heap],

and there he set, and there he smoked and smoked and smoked all the

whole day long, for, says he 'tis a long time sence I've had a

holiday! Ah, he was a very sing'lar marn--a very sing'lar marn


Some men seem to act upon Mark Twain's principle of never smoking when

asleep or at meals, and never refraining at any other time. But excess

is self-condemned. There is no good reason why anyone, for social or

any other reasons, should look askance at the reasonable use of

tobacco. But used in moderation, what evils, let me ask,--I again

quote Dr. Andrew Wilson's calm good sense--are to be found in the

train of the tobacco-habit! A man doesn't get delirium tremens even if

he smokes more than is good for him; he doesn't become a debased

mortal; there is nothing about tobacco which makes a man beat his wife

or assault his mother-in-law--rather the reverse, in fact, for tobacco

is a soother and a quietener of the passions, and many a man, I

daresay, has been prevented from doing rash things in the way of

retaliation, when he has lit his pipe and had a good think over his

affairs. Whenever anybody counterblasts to-day against tobacco, I feel

as did my old friend Wilkie Collins, when somebody told him that to

smoke was a wrong thing. 'My dear sir,' said the great novelist, 'all

your objections to tobacco only increase the relish with which I look

forward to my next cigar!'