Put This in Your Pipe

“[Tobacco] is the passion of honest men and he who lives without tobacco is not worthy of living.”—Moliere

Well, I am not sure I smoke enough to invoke that statement categorically. I can go for months without recourse to the “sublime” tobacco leaf, as Byron called it. But there are occasions when it seems appropriate or even necessary, as when a desperate George Washington wrote to the Continental Congress in 1776: “If you can’t sent money, send tobacco.”

There is apparently a hierarchy of tobacco use which runs (in descending order) from pipes, cigars, cigarettes, to chewing tobacco. I’m not sure that pastimes should be an occasion for snobbery—though there is as much to be said for genteel tobacco use as there is for preferring good beer over tasteless mass-produced lager. I occasionally partake of a panatella or a good cigarette, but the pipe rules.

According to Albert Einstein, “pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgement in all human affairs.” Jerome Brooks opined that it is “the most protracted of all forms of tobacco consumption. It may explain why pipe smokers are generally regarded as patient men—and philosophers.” The relationship of pipe to intellect may be why the long stem churchwarden is an indispensable part of Sherlock Holmes’ paraphernalia.

Up till now the cheap cigarette has prevailed, often obnoxiously so. There is no doubt that the bad manners of many smokers over the years had a rebound effect. But today’s anti-smoking crusade is absurd. It smacks of the anodyne leveling “morality” of immoral people with bad consciences.

Traditional Christian ethics would never hold that smoking is a vice, unless indulged in immoderately. And while one may (theoretically) indulge in immoderate pipe smoking, it is on the whole a more polite and ratiocinative form of tobacco consumption. I leave the reader with two more quotes to ponder.

“Tobacco smoke is the one element in which, by our European manners, men can sit silent together without embarrassment, and where no man is bound to speak one word more than he has actually and veritably got to say. Nay, rather every man is admonished and enjoined by the laws of honor, and even of personal ease, to stop short of that point; and at all events to hold his peace and take to his pipe again the instant he has spoken his meaning, if he chance to have any.”—Thomas Carlyle

“It is not enough to fill a pipe and put it to the mouth and set fire to it, for even the country bumpkin knows as much. It is only correct to hold it with the left hand, have the right hand provided with the stopper, impress the onlookers with majestic mien, sit in the proper attitude on the chair, and finally, to take enough time for each pipe and not treat with hasty irreverence this heavenly food.”—Peter Burmann on pipe etiquette, c. 1710

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