Friday, May 9, 2008

No, No, No, I Can't Sniff It No More.......

Well here it is, Friday night. I am sitting here with my leg propped up, typing and about half watching the T.V. enjoying my latest snuff . As most of you are aware, I am a sniffer, not a dipper. I started snuffing as a way of adding another dimension to my 18th century persona. I don't know why I started, other than just curiosity. I find that it serves several purposes, I enjoy it for both the flavor as well as the slight buzz that the nicotine provides. In my mind nothing says 18th century like a person taking a pinch. Case in point, a few years back, I was giving a medical talk to a large group of historians at George Mason University. They had wanted me to give the talk in "first person" which most of the time is no big problem for me. (First person is to be speaking as if I am a person from the 18th century) However this time while talking it dawned on me that I was standing in front of around 350 people and I got a case of stage fright like you wouldn't believe. My brain went totally blank and I said to myself, "Self, NOW what are you going to do?" I remembered my snuffbox, so I did the ritual of taking a pinch and gained the time I needed to regain my train of thought. Well that allowed me to pull my fat out of the fire and keep from making a fool of myself. I did however have to talk a little about snuff and it's use and to this date, most people who saw me on that day only remember me as the fellow who was doing snuff.

Snuffing gets people's attention. I can't count the times at Colonial Williamsburg when taking snuff, oriental visitors in particular will point at me and say "Ah, Cocaine!, Cocaine! with smiles and nods of their heads all around. If their command of English is good enough, I try to explain what I am doing. If not, I just smile back.

There are many types of snuff available, as well as many flavors. Tonight I am doing a orange flavored type. Most of the time I stick to a menthol type. My current favorite is McChrystal's which is a fairly mild snuff.

Snuffing was wildly popular in Georgian England particularly among the Scotch. Queen Charlotte was known as "Snuffy Charlotte" due to her love of the habit. The Prince Reagent, (Later King George IV) also was a great fan of snuff. Wilson of Sharrow still has recipes that were popular in that time period (to include several formulas that were made up for the royal family) and still makes snuff in the same manner as it was 250 years ago. So I consider snuff as just one more tool to try to help me understand what the life and times were like for the person of so long ago.

I will end this blog with a story that I ran across while researching something else which will show the importance of snuff in a social setting. It occurred in a gentleman's club in London shortly after the war in America had ended. The Prince Regent was the guest of honor at a gathering of half-pay military officers and other gentlemen. Having finished dinner, it was time for the port and snuff to be enjoyed. The prince regent, could not locate his own personal jeweled snuffbox and thought that it had been pilfered. The door was locked and all present were to turn out their pockets to attempt to locate the missing box. One of the gentlemen present (A battle scarred guards officer on half-pay) refused to do this stating that he felt that his word that he didn't have it, was sufficient. Some of the prince's entourage pinioned the old officer's arms and pulled a small package out of his coat pocket. When it was opened it was found to contain a portion of beef steak left over from the meal that the assemblage had just finished. The cost of living in London was so high that a officer on half pay was unable to make ends meet so the officer was forced to save the beef so that he would have something to eat the next day. The Prince was so overcome with guilt for embarrassing the officer who had served his country so well that he apologised profusely as well as boosted the officers pay so that the wronged officer could live in comfort the rest of his days.


Chris Grimes said...

I've dipped a bit in my past but never sniffed. If you say it is good for the sinuses, I will have to try it sometime. When did sniffing fall out of favor?

mrwill said...

It starts falling out of favor as best as I can figure out in the early 1800's about the same time that knee breeches did. There seemed to be a general rejection of old stuff (a.k.a. "English style") during and after the 1812 war.