The last smoker I recollect among those of the old school was a clergyman. He had seen the best society, and was a man of the most polished behaviour. This did not hinder him from taking his pipe every evening before he went to bed. He sat in his armchair, his back gently bending, his knees a little apart, his eyes placidly inclined toward the fire. The end of his recreation was announced by the tapping of the bowl of his pipe upon the hob, for the purpose of emptying it of its ashes. Ashes to ashes; head to bed.
The sensible man smokes (say) sixteen pipefuls a day, and all differ in value and satisfaction. In smoking there is, thank heaven, no law of diminishing returns. I may puff all day long until I nigresce with the fumes and soot, but the joy loses no savour by repetition. It is true that there is a peculiar blithe rich taste in the first morning puffs, inhaled after breakfast. (Let me posit here the ideal conditions for a morning pipe as I know them.) After your bath, breakfast must be spread in a chamber of eastern exposure; let there be hominy and cream, and if possible, brown sugar. There follow scrambled eggs, shirred to a lemon-yellow, with toast sliced in triangles, fresh, unsalted butter, and Scotch bitter marmalade. Let there be without fail a platter of hot bacon, curly, juicy, fried to the debatable point where softness is overlaid with the faintest crepitation of crackle, of crispyness. If hot Virginia corn pone is handy, so much the better. And coffee, two-thirds hot milk, also with brown sugar. It must be permissible to call for a second serving of the scrambled eggs; or, if this is beyond the budget, let there be a round of judiciously grilled kidneys, with mayhap a sprinkle of mushrooms, grown in chalky soil. That is the kind of breakfast they used to serve in Eden before the fall of man and the invention of innkeepers with their crass formulae.
After such a breakfast, if one may descend into a garden of plain turf, mured about by an occluding wall, with an alley of lime trees for sober pacing: then and there is the fit time and place for the first pipe of the day. Pack your mixture in the bowl; press it lovingly down with the cushion of the thumb; see that the draught is free–and then for your saeckerhets taendstickor! A day so begun is well begun, and sin will flee your precinct. Shog, vile care! The smoke is cool and blue and tasty on the tongue; the arch of the palate is receptive to the fume; the curling vapour ascends the chimneys of the nose. Fill your cheeks with the excellent cloudy reek, blow it forth in twists and twirls. The first pipe!
But, as I was saying, joy ends not here. Granted that the after-breakfast smoke excels in savour, succeeding fumations grow in mental reaction. The first pipe is animal, physical, a matter of pure sensation. With later kindlings of the weed the brain quickens, begins to throw out tendrils of speculation, leaps to welcome problems for thought, burrows tingling into the unknowable. As the smoke drifts and shreds about your neb, your mind is surcharged with that imponderable energy of thought, which cannot be seen or measured, yet is the most potent force in existence. All the hot sunlight of Virginia that stirred the growing leaf in its odorous plantation now crackles in that glowing dottel in your briar bowl. The venomous juices of the stalk seep down the stem. The most precious things in the world are also vivid with poison.
Was Kant a smoker? I think he must have been. How else could he have written “The Critique of Pure Reason”? Tobacco is the handmaid of science, philosophy, and literature. Carlyle eased his indigestion and snappish temper by perpetual pipes. The generous use of the weed makes the enforced retirement of Sing Sing less irksome to forgers, second-story men, and fire bugs. Samuel Butler, who had little enough truck with churchmen, was once invited to stay a week-end by the Bishop of London. Distrusting the entertaining qualities of bishops, and rightly, his first impulse was to decline. But before answering the Bishop’s letter he passed it to his manservant for advice. The latter (the immortal Alfred Emery Cathie) said: “There is a crumb of tobacco in the fold of the paper, sir: I think you may safely go.” He went, and hugely enjoyed himself.