Pipes, puffing and concerts!

King James the first back in the 17th century declared that smoking was ‘hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, and dangerous to the lungs.’ and how right he was.

“Cigarettes also came home to England from the Crimea[with soldiers who served in the Crimean War. Early in the nineteenth century, gentlemen used tobacco only in the form of snuff. Working men smoked pipes. After the Napoleonic wars, cigars come into common use; intellectuals and artists took up pipes. Since the smell of cigars and pipes was very unpleasant when it got into heavy curtains or women’s long hair, men at home smoked in their private study or went outside to the garden. Working men smoked in pubs or in the street, not generally at home. Even at the end of the period only 17% of tobacco was sold in the form of cigarettes. Elderly countrywomen sometimes enjoyed a pipe, but women who smoked cigarettes usually did it in secret with a woman friend – cigarette smoking by women was definitely ‘fast’ behavior.” Daily Life in Victorian England by Sally Mitchell

I smoked for about 20 years more or less and now as a former smoker cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would want to undertake smoking, your breath has a certain bitter stench, your hairs smell, your clothes are ruined by the hideous redolence of tobacco and that is not mention the disservice you do to your body…

Anyway this was not always the case, smoking was generally accepted in the our era. The  upper and middle class houses had a smoking room where the man of the house could go and smoke a good pipe or cigar. Women just didn’t smoke, as per the quote above, fast women smoked.

Smoking concerts were something that proved very popular at the time for several reasons. Firstly they were for men only, secondly it was a chance for men to talk politics whilst being entertained by music and thirdly it was chance for the concert halls to introduce new music an audience. In fact they continued until about 1980 when the Annual Smoking Concerts were held at Imperial College London.

However not all were impressed, The Duke of Wellington absolutely
hated smoking and was annoyed and disgusted by the increase of cigar-smoking
among officers of the army.

In the early 1840’s General Order (No. 577) which contained a paragraph which goes

The Commander-in-Chief has been informed, that the practice of smoking, by the use of pipes, cigars, or cheroots, has become prevalent among the Officers of the Army, which is not only in itself a species of intoxication occasioned by the fumes of tobacco, but, undoubtedly, occasions drinking and tippling by those who acquire the habit; and he entreats the Officers commanding Regiments to prevent smoking in the Mess Rooms of their several Regiments, and in the adjoining apartments, and to discourage the practice among the Officers of Junior Rank in their Regiments. 

Medical opinions differed greatly: A certain Dr Hodgkin wrote in a letter approving of the objects of the Anti Tobacco League, he states ‘

‘Tobacco, in all its forms, is a poison. In the end, tobacco impairs the mind for the use of its faculties. In various ways it becomes the provocative and servant of sin, and is largely contributing to the vice of the age. The use of tobacco is a violation of the courtesy of a Christian, and the good manners of a gentleman’ Dr Hodgkin

and then from an named medical paper of the time (although I find it somewhat suspension that the there is no reference!)

“The first of these statements is calculated to mislead, for the ordinary use of tobacco is not poisonous in any of its forms. That the smoking of tobacco does not produce poisonous results, an inquiry amongst the pensioners of Chelsea or Greenwich will satisfy the most sceptical. There is no sufficient scientific evidence to warrant the conclusion that its moderate use at all impairs the mind. As to the last assertion, we should be veryloath, without better evidence, to denounce in such discourteous terms two millions of Englishmen, or to stigmatize, with such uncalled for bitterness, all who indulge in a habit that was loved by Raleigh, Milton, Newton, Parr, Johnson, and a host of great and good and learned men.” Unknown Source

or the romantic view

‘Sublime tobacco! that from east to west Cheers the tar’s labours or Turkman’s rest!’ Byron

back to the medical evidence. The British Medical Journal was fairly clear on the effect of smoking in 1860:

‘In smoking a hundred grains of tobacco, therefore, say a quarter of an ounce, there may be drawn into the mouth one of the most subtle poisons. The empyreutamatic oil is acrid and disagreeable to the taste, narcotic and poisonous. One drop applied to the tongue of a cat brought on convulsions, and in two minutes occasioned death.’ BMJ 1860

and goes onto say:

For amongst the patients who consult us for various nervous and stomach complaints, it will be found that tobacco form a large proportion. Indeed, we find, unexpectedly sometimes on inquiry, that the habit of smoking is the very source of the distressing ailments, which immediately or gradually subside on omitting the use of the drug. BMJ 1860

and to finish with the great Lord Byron again.:

I had a dream—it was not all a dream:
Methought 1 sat beneath the silver beam
Of the sweet moon, and you were with me there,
And every thing around was free and fair;
And from our mouths upcurl’d the fragrant smoke,
Whose light blue wreaths can all our pleasures yoke,
In sweetest union, to young Fancy’s car,
And waft the soul out thro’ a good cigar.
There as we sat and puff’d the hours away,
And talked and laugh’d about life’s little day,
And built our golden castles in the air,
And sigh’d to think what transient things they were,
As the light smoke around our heads was thrown,
Amidst its folds a little figure shone,
An elfin sprite, who held within her hand
A small cigar, her sceptre of command.
Her hair above her brow was twisted tight off,
Like a cigar’s end, which you must bite off;
Her eyes were red and twinkling, like the light
Of eastern Hookah, or Meerschaum, by night;
A green tobacco-leaf her shoulders graced,
And dried tobacco hung about her waist;
Her voice breathed softly, like the easy puffing
Of an old smoker after he’s been stuffing.
Thus, as she roll’d aside the wanton smoke,
To us, her awe-struck votaries she spoke: —
“Hail, faithful slaves! my choicest joys descend
On him who joins the smoker to the friend,
Your’s is a pleasure that shall never vanish,
Provided that you smoke the best of Spanish;
Puff forth your clouds”—(with that we puff’d again)—
“Sweet is their fragrance”—(then we puff’d again)—
How have I hung, with most intense delight,
Over your heads when you have smoked at night,
And gratefully imparted all my powers
To bless and consecrate those happy hours;
Live on,” she said—I started and awoke,
And, with my dream, she vanished into smoke.
(unpublished works) Lord Byron 1828