Tobacco, its joys and sorrows, has caused much spilling of ink serious and otherwise, from the time of Raleigh, Jonson and the first James to the ever-existing present. Accordingly we should be willing to let the topic rest there, as last handled all too competently by Barrie, and not attempt to break forcibly into the literary roll of fame. Yet the old adage, "autre temps, autre moeurs", still holds good--and the custom of letting our betters have a free field in "Tobacco" must be for once forgotten under the pressure of the latest news from Russia. So we plunge blindly in, stopping only to offer apologies to any forbears or contemporaries who may have evolved classics on "Milady".
Russia, it must be understood at the outset, continues to revolute. In fact, so busy is it with its revoluting that it has scarcely the time to eat. (This bit of sarcasm will probably be taken over by Lenin for propaganda work, in which case we will promptly claim a fitting reward). But we digress. In fine, the nub of the matter is this: Russian women have taken up smoking as a means wherewith to assuage their hunger. And in the first flush of enthusiasm they have broadcasted the news to an astounded world.
What effects their discovery will have upon science, literature, and the world in general it is unwise at the present moment to state. Beyond the shadow of a doubt science will be revolutionized--almost as much so as Russia--and literary lights will find many new "lapses" for their pens--the first example of which is hereby offered for consideration by an anonymous Gascoigne. While as for the smoker--he who peers out so genially from multitudinous advertisements--imagination falters in the effort to prophecy his future. Will the joys of smoking vanish irretrievably with the coming of the knowledge that smoking is undoubtedly beneficial? So perverse is human nature that such a thought is not beyond the limits of sense. The "short stem that fumes beneath the nose"--will it cease to be a companion, eulogized in song and story, and become merely an emblem of duty, coldly disregarded by genius and fool alike? What of the cigarette, the forbidden fruit--and so the more delightful--of school days, the mental enemy and physical friend of college years? What will be the end of the cigar--the vicious Invincible without which no Oral Examination is complete--the mild, light brown ten-centers, not to consume one of which is to admit of a still-undeveloped manhood? The gods of incense forfend that they should all descend to the level of the yeast cake that one is supposed to order with every other meal!
It is hard to picture such a cataclysm yet stranger things than the metamorphosis of a cigarette have occurred since first "this giddy globe" began its eternal spinning. Russia is determined in all its reforms and humanity is very like Autolycus in its picking up of "unconsidered trifies". It may even come to enjoy the new status of uicotine, and discourse as light-heartedly, or as earnestly, upon it as upon the old. Another Ben may be jailed. And the value of silver ltuings proven true when, in order to instill nourishment into the o'er-watched student, her ladyship is no longer considered "de trop" in the examination room!