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Smoking in Literature

Just as in other types of fiction, smoking has had an important place in literature and smokers are often portrayed as characters with great individuality, or outright eccentrics, something typically personified in one of the most iconic smoking literary figures of all, Sherlock Holmes. Other than being a frequent part of short stories and novels, smoking has spawned endless eulogies, praising its qualities and affirming the author’s identity as a devoted smoker. Especially during the late 19th century and early 20th century, a panoply of books with titles like Tobacco: Its History and associations (1876), Cigarettes in Fact and Fancy (1906) and Pipe and Pouch: The Smokers Own Book of Poetry (1905) were written in the UK and the US. The titles were written by men for other men and contained general tidbits and poetic musings about the love for tobacco and all things related to it, and frequently praised the refined bachelor’s life. The Fragrant Weed: Some of the Good Things Which Have been Said or Sung about Tobacco, published in 1907, contained, among many others, the following lines from the poem A Bachelor’s Views by Tom Hall that were typical of the attitude in many of the books:

So let us drink
To her, – but think
Of him who has to keep her;
And sans a wife
Let’s spend our life
In bachelordom, – it’s cheaper.

—Eugene Umberger

These works were all published in an era before the cigarette had become the dominant form of tobacco consumption and pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco were still commonplace. Many of the books were published in novel packaging that would attract the learned smoking gentleman. Pipe and Pouch came in a leather bag resembling a tobacco pouch and Cigarettes in Fact and Fancy (1901) came bound in leather, packaged in an imitation cardboard cigar box. By the late 1920s, the publication of this type of literature largely abated and was only sporadically revived in the later 20th century.

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