A Book Review – Tobacco Leaves by Bewlay (Second Edition – 1892)

Review by Steve Laug

I don’t remember where I picked this book up but it is an old timer with the Second Edition coming out in 1892. It is called Tobacco Leaves by Bewlay. Under that it is stamped Entd at Stationers Hall. The title on the cover of the book is stamped in gold around a pair of tobacco leaves. The book was printed and distributed by Bewlay and Company – makers of fine tobacco pipes and accessories.

From the Preface I dray the following paragraphs:

“The universal use of Tobacco in some form or other all the world over, and the interest which devotees of the weed take in everything related to it, have suggested the literary whiffs now offered from the entertainments of our numerous supporters and the public generally.

The smoker is a contemplative man, and we venture to hope that he may find food for reflection in the Tobacco Leaves which are here unrolled for his perusal.

Among smokers, a sort of Freemasonry exists; and not only does their harmless indulgence constitute a fraternal bond between them  which levels social distinctions, but it has educed a mystic symbolism that has found expression in very many effusions of which the following is an example:-

 “Of lordly men, how humbling is the type,

A fleeting shadow, a tobacco pipe!

His mind the fire, his frame the tube of clay,

His breath the smoke so idly puffed away,

His food the herb that fills the hollow bowl,

Death is the stopper, ashes end the whole.”

While in the following pages an endeavor is made to the principal sources of supply whence the best growths of tobacco are obtained, we would specially direct attention to what is said respecting the importation by us of Indian and Burmah Cheroots and Cigars. Our agents write, that “the natives take great pains in their manufacture (especially in Burmah), to turn out a well-made Cigard and Cheroot, very different in appearance to the rough-looking Lunkah formerly sent.” The excellence of these Cigars and Cheroots has resulted in a large and growing demand since we first introduced them. – Bewlay & Co. 49. Strand.

Because of the breadth of material in the small, less than 100 page book I decided to divided it by the chapters that Bewlay divided it into and make comments in each section by Chapter division.

The book begins immediately after the Preface with a chapter on smoking and whether or not is beneficial of harmful. The chapter is entitled: Chapter 1 – Pages 7-18 Is Smoking Beneficial or Pernicious? In the chapter various historical arguments are made for both sides of the argument – yea or nay. Of course it moves forward to a strong defense of the beneficial nature of the moderate use of tobacco. It is sprinkles with quotes in defense of the use of tobacco and the serious benefits to those who use it! From there the book turns to exactly what I would expect in the second chapter.

This chapter marshals famous devotees of tobacco and what they say about their use of the “weed”. Chapter 2 – Pages 19-28  is entitled:  Eminent Devotees of the Weed. It cites various proponents from all over the continent on their use of tobacco and what they have found that it does for them. There are some poems and odes to the beauty of tobacco that are also included in this chapter. These figures include political, scientific, medical and literary figures. It is a great read and pretty normal for this kind of booklet from this time period.

From there the book turns to talk about Tobacco itself instead of defending it. Chapter 3 – Pages 29-31 Tobacco as a Prophylactic covers some interesting information. I quote the opening paragraph as it captures the focus of the chapter.

Tobacco smoking has long been regarded as a warder off or prophylactic of catching disease, and is strongly believed in both by soldiers and sailors, and many other classes. Army surgeons consider smoking gives confidence to many soldiers, and this confidence they regard as a very important factor on the outbreak of an epidemic such as cholera – pg 29.

From there the chapter turns to it use in gardening for killing blight in a greenhouse and as a germicide. Its use is also noted by doctors who have seen its value in the medical and dental professions. It is a short chapter but fascinating in its old time medical information.

Chapter 4 – Pages 32-41 Some Facts About Tobacco moves to giving a general overview of the history of tobacco and the nature and use of tobaccos of various regions and countries. It also overviews the various tobaccos from the United States which are by far the greater proportion of the unmanufactured tobaccos imported into the United Kingdom – Shag, Returns, Bird’s Eye, Maryland, Canaster or K’naster. The chapter ends with a witty poem about tobaccos.

Chapter 5 – Pages 42-47 The Adulteration of Tobacco and Cigars. This chapter is not what I expected from the title. It is actually about flavoring or topping tobacco and snuff with such things as molasses, sugar, aloes, liquorice, gum, catechu, oil and lampblack, alum, tannic acitd and iron, logwood, and such leaves as rhubarb, chicory, cabbage, burdock and coltsfoot. It is an interesting read about this in all forms of tobacco products including cigarettes and cigars. It makes me wonder what they would have written about in our day!

Chapter 6 – Pages 48-57 On Pipes gives a short overview of the history and types of pipes that have been and are available. It covers clay, meerschaum and briar pipes quite well and has some great quotable lines such as: “The best kind of pipe to use is a perfectly clean pipe, composed of an absorbing material, like briar, clay or meerschaum, with a long stem, which can suck up the oily matter before it reaches the mouth….”  The chapter ends with some great older poems about the pipe.

Chapter 7 – Pages 58-66 Remarks on Havannah, Indian, Burmah, Flor de Dindigul and Flor de Java Cigars and Cheroots covers by region cigars and cheroots that are sold by Bewlay and Company. Great historical read by region.

Chapter 8 – Pages 67-77 Cigarettes, like the previous chapter covers this method of using tobacco. There is a great quote that heads the chapter that I cite below:

“The man who smokes thinks like a sage and acts like a Samaritan.” – Bulwer Lytton

Chapter 9 – Pages 78-93 a Catalogue of Bewlay & Co. Limited. As the title suggests these large section of the book is a catalogue of products. Each product has a description and there are often etchings of the product itself – such as pipes.

This is a great little book well worth the read. It is a journey into the past with a great sense of what the world was like at this time in the history of England. If like me you enjoy Bewlay pipes in your collection it is all the more reason to keep an eye for this book.


2 thoughts on “A Book Review – Tobacco Leaves by Bewlay (Second Edition – 1892)

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