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The Social History of Smoking

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I THE FIRST PIPES OF TOBACCO SMOKED IN ENGLAND Before the wine of sunny Rhine, or even Madam Clicquot's,Let all men praise, with loud hurras, this panacea of Nicot's.The debt confess, though none the less they love the grape and barley,Which Frenchmen owe to good Nicot, and Englishmen to Raleigh.

Dean Hole.

There is little doubt that the smoke of herbs and leaves of various kinds was inhaled in this country, and in Europe generally, long before tobacco was ever heard of on this side the Atlantic. But whatever smoking of this kind took place was medicinal and not social. Many instances have been recorded of the finding of pipes resembling those used for tobacco-smoking in Elizabethan times, in positions and in circumstances which would seem to point to much greater antiquity of use than the form of the pipes supports; but some at least of these finds will not bear the interpretation which has been put upon them, and in other cases the presence of pipes could reasonably be accounted for otherwise than by associating them with the antiquity claimed for them. In any case, the entire absence of any allusions whatever to smoking in any shape or form in our pre-Elizabethan literature, or in mediæval or earlier art, is sufficient proof that from the social point of view smoking did not then exist. The inhaling of the smoke of dried herbs for medicinal purposes, whether through a pipe-shaped funnel or otherwise, had nothing in it akin to the smoking of tobacco for both individual and social pleasure, and therefore lies outside the scope of this book.

It may further be added that though the use of tobacco was known and practised on the continent of Europe for some time before smoking became common in England—it was taken to Spain from Mexico by a physician about 1560, and Jean Nicot about the same time sent tobacco seeds to France—yet such use was exclusively for medicinal purposes. The smoking of tobacco in England seems from the first to have been much more a matter of pleasure than of hygiene.

Who first smoked a pipe of tobacco in England? The honour is divided among several claimants. It has often been stated that Captain William Middleton or Myddelton (son of Richard Middleton, Governor of Denbigh Castle), a Captain Price and a Captain Koet were the first who smoked publicly in London, and that folk flocked from all parts to see them; and it is usually added that pipes were not then invented, so they smoked the twisted leaf, or cigars. This account first appeared in one of the volumes of Pennant's "Tour in Wales." But the late Professor Arber long ago pointed out that the remark as to the mode of smoking by cigars and not by pipes was simply Pennant's speculation. The authority for the rest of the story is a paper in the Sebright MSS., which, in an account of William Middleton, has the remark: "It is sayed, that he, with Captain Thomas Price of Plâsyollin and one Captain Koet, were the first who smoked, or (as they called it) drank tobacco publickly in London; and that the Londoners flocked from all parts to see them." No date is named, and no further particulars are available....