Chapter 11 Part 2
LATER VICTORIAN DAYS
The late Bishop Mandell Creighton, of London, was an incessant smoker
of cigarettes. Mr. Herbert Paul, in his paper on the Bishop, says that
those who went to see him at Fulham on a Sunday afternoon always found
him, if they found him at all, "leisurely, chatty, hospitable, and
apparently without a care in the world. There was the family
tea-table, and there were the eternal cigarettes. The Bishop must have
paid a fortune in tobacco-duty." There is a side view of another
tobacco-lover in the "Note-Books" of Samuel Butler, the author of
"Erewhon." Creighton, after reading Butler's "Alps and Sanctuaries"
had asked the author to come and see him. Butler was in doubt whether
or not to go, and consulted his clerk, Alfred, on the matter. That
wise counsellor asked to look at the Bishop's letter, and then said:
"I see, sir, there is a crumb of tobacco in it; I think you can go."
Apart from cigarette-smoking, however, the use of tobacco grew
steadily during the later Victorian period. In "Mr. Punch's
Pocket-Book" for 1878 there was a burlesque dialogue between uncle and
nephew entitled "Cupid and 'Baccy." The uncle thinks the younger men
smoke too much, and declares that tobacco "has destroyed the
susceptibility, which in my time made youngsters fall in love, as they
often did, with a girl without a penny. No fellow can fall in love
when he has continually a pipe in his mouth; and if he ever feels
inclined to when it would be imprudent, why he lights his pipe, and
very soon smokes the idea of such folly out of his head. Not so when I
was of your age. Besides a few old farmers, churchwardens, and
overseers, and such, nobody then ever smoked but labourers and the
lower orders—cads as you now say. Smoking was thought vulgar. Young
men never smoked at all. To smoke in the presence of a lady was an
inconceivable outrage; yet now I see you and your friends walking
alongside of one another's sisters, smoking a short pipe down the
street." "The girls like it," says Nepos. "In my time," replies
Avunculus, "young ladies would have fainted at the bare suggestion of
such an enormity." The dialogue ends as follows:
"Nepos (producing short clay). See here, Uncle.
This pipe is almost coloured. How long do you think I have had
"Avunculus. Can't imagine.
"Nepos. Only three weeks.
"Avunculus. Good boy!"
In the same "Pocket-Book" one of the ideals of a wife by a bachelor
is—"To approve of smoking all over the house"; while one of the
ideals of a husband by a spinster is—"Not to smoke, or use a
latch-key." Mr. Punch's prelections, of course, are not to be taken
too seriously. They all necessarily have the exaggeration of
caricature; but at the same time they are all significant, and for the
social historian are invaluable.
Tobacco-smoking was advancing victoriously all along the line. Absurd
old conventions and ridiculous restrictions had to give way or were
broken through in every direction. The compartments for smokers on
railway trains, at first provided sparsely and grudgingly, became more
and more numerous. The practice of smoking out of doors , which the
early Victorians held in particular abhorrence, became common—at
least so far as cigars and cigarettes were concerned. Lady Dorothy
Nevill, whose memory covered so large a part of the nineteenth
century, said, in the "Leaves" from her note-book which was published
in 1907, that to smoke in Hyde Park, even up to comparatively recent
years, was looked upon as absolutely unpardonable; while smoking
anywhere with a lady would, in the earlier days, have been classed as
an almost disgraceful social crime. The first gentleman of whom Lady
Dorothy heard as having been seen smoking a cigar in the Park was the
Duke of Sutherland, and the lady who told her spoke of it as if she
had been present at an earthquake! Pipes were (and are) still looked
at askance in many places where the smoking of cigars and cigarettes
is freely allowed, and fashion frowned on the pipe in street or Park.
Of course, what one might do in the country and what one might do in
town were two quite different things. The following story was told
nearly twenty years ago of the late Duke of Devonshire. An American
tourist began talking one day to a quiet-looking man who was smoking
outside an inn on the Chatsworth estate, and, taking the man for the
inn-keeper, expressed his admiration of the Duke of Devonshire's
domain. "Quite a place, isn't it?" said the American. "Yes, a pleasant
place enough," returned the Englishman. "The fellow who owns it must
be worth a mint of money," said the American, through his cigar-smoke.
"Yes, he's comfortably off," agreed the other. "I wonder if I could
get a look at the old chap," said the stranger, after a short silence;
"I should like to see what sort of a bird he is." Puff, puff, went
the English cigar, and then said the English voice, trying hard to
control itself: "If you"—puff—"look hard"—puff, puff—"in this
direction, you"—puff, puff—"can tell in a minute." "You, you!"
faltered the American, getting up, "why, I thought you were the
landlord!" "Well, so I am," said the Duke, "though I don't perform the
duties." "I stay here," he added, with a twinkle in his eye, "to be
Among the chief strongholds of the old ideas and prejudices were some
of the clubs. At the Athenæum the only smoking-room used to be a
combined billiard-and smoking-room in the basement. It was but a few
years ago that an attic story was added to the building, and smokers
can now reach more comfortable quarters by means of a lift put in when
the alterations were made in 1900. This new smoking-room is a very
handsome, largely book-lined apartment. At the end of the room is a
beautiful marble mantelpiece of late eighteenth century Italian work.
At White's even cigars had not been allowed at all until 1845; and
when, in 1866, some of the younger members wished to be allowed to
smoke in the drawing-room, there was much perturbation, the older
members bitterly opposing the proposal. "A general meeting was held to
decide the question," says Mr. Ralph Nevill, in his "London Clubs,"
"when a number of old gentlemen who had not been seen in the club for
years made their appearance, stoutly determined to resist the proposed
desecration. 'Where do all these old fossils come from?' inquired a
member. 'From Kensal Green,' was Mr. Alfred Montgomery's reply. 'Their
hearses, I understand, are waiting to take them back there.'" The
motion for the extension of the facilities for smoking was defeated
by a majority of twenty-three votes, and as an indirect result the
Marlborough Club was founded. The late King Edward, at that time
Prince of Wales, is said to have sympathized strongly with the
defeated minority at White's, and to have interested himself in the
foundation of the Marlborough; where, "for the first time in the
history of West End Clubland, smoking, except in the dining-room, was
everywhere allowed." By "smoking" is no doubt here meant everything
but pipes, which were not considered gentlemanly even at the Garrick
Club at the beginning of the present century. The late Duc d'Aumale
was a social pioneer in pipe-smoking. His caricature in "Vanity Fair"
represents him with a pipe in his mouth, although he is wearing an
opera-hat, black frock-coat buttoned up, and a cloak.
By the end of the nineteenth century the snuff-box which once upon a
time stood upon the mantelpiece of every club, had disappeared. The
habit of snuffing had long been falling into desuetude. The cigar
dealt the snuff-box its death-blow and the cigarette was chief mourner
at its funeral.
As in other periods, men of letters and artists ignored the social
prejudices and conventions about tobacco, and laughed at the
artificial distinctions drawn between cigars and pipes. It is said
that the late Sir John Millais smoked a clay pipe in his carriage when
he was part of the first Jubilee procession of Queen Victoria—a
performance, if it took place, which would certainly have horrified
her tobacco-hating Majesty. Tennyson and his friends smoked their
pipes as they had always done—and old-fashioned clay pipes too. Sir
Norman Lockyer, referring to a period about 1867, mentions Monday
evenings in his house which were given up to friends "who came in, sans cérémonie, to talk and smoke. Clays from Broseley, including
'churchwardens' and some of larger size (Frank Buckland's held an
ounce of tobacco) were provided, and the confirmed smokers (Tennyson,
an occasional visitor, being one of them) kept their pipes, on which
the name was written, in a rack for future symposia."
Of the other great Victorian poets Morris was a pipe-smoker, and so
was Rossetti. Browning also smoked, but not, I think, a pipe.
Swinburne, on the other hand, detested tobacco, and expressed himself
on the subject with characteristic extravagance and vehemence—"James
I was a knave, a tyrant, a fool, a liar, a coward. But I love him, I
worship him, because he slit the throat of that blackguard Raleigh who
invented this filthy smoking!" Professor Blackie, in a letter to his
wife, remarked: "The first thing I said on entering the public room
was—'What a delightful thing the smell of tobacco is, in a warm room
on a wet night!' ... I gave my opinion with great decision that tobacco, whisky and all such stimulants or sedatives, had their
foundation in nature, could not be abolished, or rather should not,
and must be content with the check of a wise regulation. Even pious
ladies were fond of tea, which, taken in excess, was worse for the
nerves than a glass of sherry."