Monday, December 26, 2011

A Kemble Cigar?

There is an English expression, particularly popular in the far western English county of Herefordshire, that the last pipe smoked on any occasion is called the "Kemble pipe" and the last drink had is called the "Kemble cup." The expression comes from the story of the martyrdom of a Roman catholic priest named John Kemble.

John Kemble was born in Rhydicar Farm, St. Weonard's in Herefordshire, England in 1599, son of John Kemble and Anne Morgan. He was ordained a priest at Douai College in 1625, and was sent back to England where he ministered the people of Herefordshire and Monmouthshire without event for 54 years. In his eightieth year, he was accused of participating in the concocted plot of Titus Oates, a rumored "Popish Plot" where the Protestant King Charles II was to be murdered to allow the installation for his Catholic brother James. This false accusation led to his arrest. He was charged with treason, though probably entirely innocent of the affair. In any event, though absolved of participation in the "Popish Plot," he was found guilty of treason for simply saying Mass and being a Catholic priest, but illegal at the time. He spent months in jail, first in Hereford Gaol, and the in Newgate Prison in London, before his execution by hanging. Prior to his execution, it is said that, after having engaged in his devotions, he calmly smoked a pipe and drank a cup of sack with the under-sheriff and the governor of the prison. This gave rise to the expressions "Kemble pipe" and "Kemble cup."

St. John Kemble was one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 25, 1970.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Metaphysical Tobacco

Michael East (ca. 1580-1648) (alternative spellings of his last name include Easte, Est, and Este) is the author of our next old poem on tobacco. He was an English composer, organist, and choirmaster and Lichfield Cathedral. He wrote a number of hymns, anthems, and madrigals, perhaps his most famous being the 5-part madrigal "Hence Stars" which is in the collection of madrigals dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I entitled Triumphs of Oriana. The madrigal we address in this posting is a short madrigal entitled "O metaphysical tobacco" written circa 1606.*

O metaphysical tobacco!
Fetch'd as far as from Morocco:
They searching fume
Exhales the rheum;**
O metaphysical tobacco!

*E. H. Fellowes, English Madrigal Verse: 1588-1632 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1920), 81.
**Rheum is ultimately derived from Latin rheuma which itself is a borrowing from Greek rheuma (ῥεῦμα), meaning that which flows, has current, or is in flux, such as in, e.g., a stream or fortune.
Here's an interesting quote from the great British preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92), who much loved to smoke his cigars. The quote is from a sermon in the autumn of 1874, when a visiting preacher had condemned the smoking of cigars as sinful. Spurgeon got up after the visiting preacher sat down, and defended the smoking of cigars. This created such a controversy that he later felt the need to explain his actions in a letter to the newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

Part of Spurgeon's sermon:
"I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to be tonight. If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, "Thou shalt not smoke," I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and, I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve. . . . . I wish to say that I'm not ashamed of anything whatever that I do, and I don't feel that smoking makes me ashamed, and therefore I mean to smoke to the Glory of God."

Spurgeon's defense as published by the newspaper:
To the Editor of the Daily Telegraph.

YOU cannot regret more than I do the occasion which produced the unpremeditated remarks to which you refer. I would, however, remind you that I am not responsible for the accuracy of newspaper reports, nor do I admit that they are a full and fair representation of what I said. I am described as rising with a twinkling eye, and this at once suggested that I spoke flippantly; but indeed, I did nothing of the kind. I was rather too much in earnest than too little.
I demur altogether and most positively to the statement that to smoke tobacco is in itself a sin. It may become so, as any other indifferent action may, but as an action it is no sin.
Together with hundreds of thousands of my fellow-Christians I have smoked, and, with them, I am under the condemnation of living in habitual sin, if certain accusers are to be believed. As I would not knowingly live even in the smallest violation of the law of God, and sin in the transgression of the law, I will not own to sin when I am not conscious of it.
There is growing up in society a Pharisaic system which adds to the commands of God the precepts of men; to that system I will not yield for an hour. The preservation of my liberty may bring upon me the upbraidings of many good men, and the sneers of the self-righteous; but I shall endure both with serenity so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God.
The expression "smoking to the glory of God" standing alone has an ill sound, and I do not justify it; but in the sense in which I employed it I still stand to it. No Christian should do anything in which he cannot glorify God; and this may be done, according to Scripture, in eating and drinking and the common actions of life.
When I have found intense pain relieved, a weary brain soothed, and calm, refreshing sleep obtained by a cigar, I have felt grateful to God, and have blessed His name; this is what I meant, and by no means did I use sacred words triflingly.
If through smoking I had wasted an hour of my time—if I had stinted my gifts to the poor—if I had rendered my mind less vigorous—I trust I should see my fault and turn from it; but he who charges me with these things shall have no answer but my forgiveness.
I am told that my open avowal will lessen my influence, and my reply is that if I have gained any influence through being thought different from what I am, I have no wish to retain it. I will do nothing upon the sly, and nothing about which I have a doubt.
I am most sorry that prominence has been given to what seems to me so small a matter—and the last thing in my thoughts would have been the mention of it from the pulpit; but I was placed in such a position that I must either by my silence plead guilty to living in sin, or else bring down upon my unfortunate self the fierce rebukes of the anti-tobacco advocates by speaking out honestly. I chose the latter; and although I am now the target for these worthy brethren, I would sooner endure their severest censures than sneakingly do what I could not justify, and earn immunity from their criticism by tamely submitting to be charged with sin in an action which my conscience allows.

Yours truly,


Nightingale Lane, Clapham, Sept. 23.

Spurgeon's love of cigars was so well known that there used to be a brand of cigars in Spurgeon's name, no doubt the result of some advertiser trying to get some Protestants hooked on the leaf.

Source: Spurgeon's Love of Fine Cigars

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cigar Mouthpieces

I'd like to get the opinion of Jorge, our resident cigar guru, on the merits/demerits of cigar holders or cigar mouthpieces. I would have to liken it to engaging contraceptive sex: that is an entirely artificial falsification of the real thing.

The 19th century Smoker's Guide, Philosopher and Friend, by "A Veteran of Smokedom," puts it this way: "For our part, to smoke a cigar through a mouthpiece is equivalent to kissing a lady through a respirator." (p. 61)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Religious Drinking of Tobacco

I have found a couple of old cigar poems. I will post the first one by the Puritan poet Robert Wisdome in this posting, and another--being a madrigal authored by Michael East (1580-1648)--in the next.

The first poem entitled "A Religious Use of Taking Tobacco" is attributed by many to the archdeacon of Ely and poet Robert Wisdome, later nominated by King Edward VI to an Irish bishobric (d. 1568). I therefore offer this poem with a monitum, a warning, inasmuch as our right reverend archdeacon was an enemy of both the Pope and the Turk. As to the first, he was in error. As to the second, he was aright.

Wisdome's unwise tendentiousness shows itself in his hymnody. There is a hymn attributed to Wisdome which begins:

Preserve us, Lord, by thy dear word,
From Turk and pope defend us, Lord.

I suppose he had his reasons, and he is said to have fled merry old England when the Catholic Queen Mary assumed the throne of England.

In any event, this sort of bias was mocked by Bishop Richard Corbet (1592-1635), one of the so-called "metaphysical poets," who wrote a poem entitled "To the Ghost of Robert Wisdome."* He was dean of Christchurch Oxford, then Bishop of Oxford, and finally Bishop of Norwich.

Thou once a body, now but air,
Arch-botcher of a psalme or prayer,
From Carfax come!
And patch me up a zealous lay.
With an old ever and for ay,
Or, all and some.

Or such a spirit lend me,
As may a hymn down send me
To purge my brain:
So, Robert, look behind thee,
Lest Turk or Pope do find thee,
And go to bed again.

"Puritan" Brand Cigar Label

In his poem "A Religious Use of Tobacco," Wisdome wisely seeks to link the smoking of tobacco with human life within the perspective of the Christian revelation. The poem therefore seeks to view the smoking of tobacco as a memento mori, a reminder of death. It notes that tobacco is like a man who is born and quickly shoots up like a sapling. Not long, however, the decay of age sets in, and eventually the life is cut down by death. The change of the tobacco leaf into smoke is a symbol of life's fleetingness, its vanity. Life and all the earthly goods are as ephemeral as cigar smoke. Wisdome likens the filth of the pipe to the soul marred by sin, and such sin is cleansed only as if through fire. The ashes that are left behind ought to remind us that were but dust and ash, and to dust and ash we shall return. Cinerem in cinerem, pulverem in pulverem.

The Indian weed, withered quite,
Green at morn, cut down at night,
Shows thy decay,
All flesh is hay:
Thus think, then drink Tobacco.**

And when the smoke ascends on high,
Think thou beholdest the vanity
Of worldly stuff,
Gone with a puff,
Thus think, then drink tobacco.

And when the pipe grows foul within,
Think on thy soul defil'd with sin,
And then the fire
It doth require.
Thus think, then drink tobacco.

The ashes that are left behind,
May serve to put thee still in mind,
That unto dust
Return thou must.
Thus think, then drink tobacco.

Some forms of this poem have an alternative first stanza attributed to the Calvinist George Wither (1588-1667). Wither also adds an additional stanza.

Why should we so much despise,
So good and wholesome an exercise,
As early and late,
To meditate:
Thus think, then drink Tobacco.

The pipe that is so lily-white,
Shows thee to be a mortal wight;***
And even such,
Gone with a touch,
Thus think, then drink tobacco.

*See Thomas Warton, History of English Poetry: From the Twelfth to the Close of the Sixteenth Century (London: Reeves & Turner, 1871), Vol. 4, 131-32.
**It seems odd, but "drinking" tobacco was another way of referring to the "smoking" of tobacco. See Notes and Queries: Media of Inter-Communication for Literary Men, Artists, Antiquaries, Genealogists, etc. (London: Bell & Daldy, 1856) (2nd series, Vol. I (Jan-Jun 1856), 378 (s.v. "Song on Tobacco") It may, however, also stem from the Elizabethan custom of both breathing and swallowing the smoke. As a result of this oddity, some versions of the poem have replaced the term "drink" with "take."
***Wight is a Middle English word derived from Old English wiht, and it is used to refer to a sentient being or creature. It is most often used to describe a living human being.

And interesting discussion of this poem may be found at "To 'Drink' Tobacco" a posting in the blog Gypsy Scholar.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One very long smoke!

Now here's a cigar to strive for, though it won't fit even in Jorge's humidor!

The world's longest cigar that stretched 268 feet 4 inches, or most of the length of a football field, is seen in Havana May 3. Resting on tables, it sprawled through El Morro, an old Spanish fort overlooking Havana Bay, where Cuba is holding its annual International Tourism Fair. The cigar, once it is officially accepted by Guinness World Records in London, will eclipse the previous record cigar of 148 feet 9 inches, both rolled by Jose Castelar Cairo, better known as "Cueto".

Cigar Brand I Will Never Buy

Some cigar brands simply do not make the cut. This is one of them that will not touch the lips of a St. HOLG's cigar member.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cigars Help in The Difficult Crossing

We have had a couple of postings on the Belgian artist René François Ghislain Magritte (1898-1967) who was famous for his surrealist paintings. One should refer to the prior postings Ceci n'est pas un cigare and The Cigar in a State of Grace for background. In this posting, we look at another of Magritte's works that incorporates a cigar. It is one of a series of paintings that attempt to depict the "difficult crossing," la traversée difficile. These paints all seem to have several fixtures. First, there is something akin to to a column or a baluster-like object, a bilboquet. In some of these paintings, it looks like a white pole similar to a pawn or a bishop's piece in a chess set.

In this particular painting dated 1946, the bilboquet shows itself in the form of a lamp. It may be called the "hero" or protagonist of the painting, and seems to be the center or stability in the piece. An additional common feature of all these paintings is the presence of a table. Most of the time, the legs of the table are depicted. In this particular version, only the tabletop remains. When there is a table, there is always an object on the table. In one of his paintings, for example, it is a wooden hand holding a bird. In this instance, the object on the table is a cigar box holding a lit cigar. Though the other paintings of this kind all have steps, in this instance the steps are only implied in the balustrade in the background. The curtain and the ambiguity between the outer and inner space are also frequent objects, in this case the presence of a window is extremely disguised. Always, the outside is stormy weather tied to the energetic and frothy sea.