The Bachelor’s Wife

by Josiah Audette

Tobacco Pipe Smoking

A most astute observation on pipe smokers (Among whom I happen to be) from Cecil B. Hartley’s 1860 work, “The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness.”

“But what shall I say of the fragrant weed which Raleigh taught our gallants to puff in capacious bowls; which a royal pedant denounced in a famous “Counterblast”; which his flattering laureate, Ben Jonson, ridiculed to please his master; which our wives and sisters protest gives rise to the dirtiest and most unsociable habit a man can indulge in; of which some fair favourers declare that they love the smell, and others that they will never marry an indulger (which, by the way, they generally end in doing); which has won fame over more space and among better men than Noah’s grape has ever done; which doctors still dispute about, and boys still get sick over; but which is the solace of the weary labourer; the support of the ill-fed; the refresher of overwrought brains; the soother of angry fancies; the boast of the exquisite; the excuse of the idle; the companion of the philosopher; and the tenth muse of the poet. I will go neither into the medical nor the moral question about the dreamy, calming cloud. I will content myself so far with saying what may be said for everything that can bless and curse mankind, that, in moderation, it is at least harmless; but what is moderate and what is not, must be determined in each individual case, according to the habits and constitution of the subject…

…In another point of view, I am inclined to think that smoking has conduced to make the society of men, when alone, less riotous, less quarrelsome, and even less vicious than it was. Where young men now blow a common cloud, they were formerly driven to a fearful consumption of wine, and this in their heads, they were ready and roused to any iniquity. But the pipe is the bachelor’s wife. With this he can endure solitude longer, and is not forced into low society in order to shun it. With it, too, the idle can pass many an hour, which otherwise he would have given, not to work, but to extravagant revelries. With it he is no longer restless and impatient for excitement of any kind. We never hear now of young blades issuing in bands from their wine to beat the watch or disturb the slumbering citizens, as we did thirty or forty years ago, when smoking was still a rarity; they are all puffing harmlessly in their chambers now. But, on the other hand, I foresee with dread a too tender allegiance to the pipe, to the destruction of good society, and the abandonment of the ladies. No wonder they hate it, dear creatures; the pipe is the worst rival a woman can have, and it is one whose eyes she cannot scratch out; who improves with age, while she herself declines; who has an art which no woman possesses, that of never wearying her devotee; who is silent, yet a companion; costs little, yet gives much pleasure; who, lastly, never upbraids, and always yields the same joy. Ah! this is a powerful rival to wife or maid, and no wonder that at last the woman succumbs, consents, and rather than lose her lord or master, even supplies the hated herb with her own fair hands.”

Advertisements