Social Life in Queen Anne's Reign, Volume I.

Ashton, John





has been made to the prevalent use of tobacco, both in smoking and as snuff; and, perhaps, at no time in the century was there a larger consumption. The habit of meeting convivially at the coffee-houses, and taverns, favoured the practice of smoking among the men. , who disliked smoking, gives the following account of a famous tobacco shop in . Speaking of the company assembled, he says: 'There was no Talking amongst 'em, but Puff was the Period of every Sentence; and what they said was as short as possible, for fear of losing the Pleasure of a Whiff, as How d'ye do? Puff. Thank ye. Puff. Is the Weed good? Puff. Excellent. Puff. It's fine Weather. Puff. G-d be thanked. Puff. What's a clock. Puff, &c. Behind the Counter stood a Complaisant Spark who I observ'd show'd as much Breeding in the Sale of a Pennyworth of Tobacco, and the Change of a Shilling, as a Courteous Footman when he meets his Brother Skip in the Middle of Covent Garden; and is so very Dexterous in Discharge of his Occupation, that he guesses from a Pound of Tobacco to an Ounce, to the certainty of one single Corn. And will serve more Pennyworths of Tobacco in half an Hour, than some Clouterly Mundungus Sellers shall be able to do in half Four and Twenty. He never makes a Man wait the Tenth part of a Minute for his Change, but will so readily fling you down all Sums, without Counting, from a Guinea to three Pennyworth of Farthings, that you would think he had it ready


in his Hand for you before you ask'd him for it. He was very generous of his Small beer to a good Customer; and I am bound to say thus much in his behalf, That he will show a Man more Civility for the taking of a Penny than many Mechanicks will do for the taking a Pound.'

'Tobacco is very much used in England. The very Women take it in Abundance, particular'y in the Western Counties,' writes , and also mentions the practice; but, although Jorevin reports that in Charles the Second's time, in Worcestershire, it was not only usual for the women to join the men in smoking, but that the children were sent to school with pipes in their satchels, and the schoolmaster called a halt in their studies whilst they all smoked-he teaching the neophytes-yet runs him very hard. '20 Jan. . Evening with brother &c. at Garraway's[1]  Coffee House; was surprised to see his sickly child of three years old fill its pipe of Tobacco and smoke it as audfarandly as a man of three score; after that, a second and a third pipe without the least concern, as it is said to have done above a year ago.'

The tobacco was twisted into rope and made up in rolls, more after the fashion of Varinas Knaster than of our other twisted tobaccos, and it generally had to be cut up before using. Its price may be learned from the following advertisements. 'Whereas there has been several Persons who have pretended to sell the true Spanish roll'd Tobacco; These are therefore to inform the World, that Jeremiah Stoaks at Garraway's Coffee House in Exchange Ally, bought the whole Parcel that was brought into England, as by Prize taken by Her Majesty's Fleet at Vigo, and that there is not a Nett Portacco in England but what he has in his Hands; These are therefore to advise all Gentlemen, that they may be furnish'd with the same tobacco at 8s. per Pound, at the above mentioned Place, and no where else.' This class of tobacco was evidently exceedingly choice, comparing it with the ordinary price. 'Benjamin Howes, Tobacconist, at the Corner of Shoe Lane in , London, who hath lived there 30 years and upwards;


he was Partner with Mr. Montague, did sell his best old, mild, sweet-scented Virginia Tobacco for 2s. per Pound, does now, and will continue to sell the same for 20d., either Large Cut, Small or Long Cut, and Penny Papers for Taverns or Publick Houses, full half Ounces for 20d. a Pound (for present Money). He sells right Spanish in the Roll for 8s. a Pound, and Spanish and Virginia mixt for 3s. a pound, and Encouragement to Country Chapmen.'

There was a Customs duty on tobacco, of course; and we find, in , the Irish Parliament increasing this tax, among many others, in order to vote a supply of 135,000£. to Her Majesty. 'Dublin, 5 Aug. Resolved, That it is the Opinion of this Committee that the said Additional Duty be three pence halfpenny per Pound weight on all Tobacco which shall be so Imported into this Kingdom, from and after the said 29th day of September over and above the Hereditary Duty of two pence halfpenny per Pound, payable for the same.'

But it was the singular growth of the practice of taking snuff that specially marks the reign of Anne, before which time it was comparatively unknown. , the perfumer, previously mentioned, sold snuff, as all his craft did: and from him we get a very interesting account of its rise. He says: 'Before the year , when we sent out a fleet of ships under the command of Sir George Rooke, with land forces commanded by the Duke of Ormond, in order to make a descent on Cadiz, snuff taking was very rare, and, indeed, little known in England; it being chiefly a luxurious habit among foreigners residing here, and a few of the English gentry who had travelled abroad. Among these, the mode of taking the snuff was with pipes of the size of quills, out of small spring boxes. These pipes let out a very small quantity of snuff, upon the back of the hand, and this was snuffed up the nostrils with the intention of producing the sensation of sneezing, which, I need not say, forms now no part of the design, or rather fashion of snuff taking.

'But to return to our expedition by sea. When the fleet arrived near Cadiz, our land forces were disembarked at a


place called Port St. Mary, where, after some fruitless attempts, it was resolved to re-embark the troops, and set sail for England. But previous to this, Port St. Mary, and some adjacent places were plundered. Here, besides some very rich merchandize, plate, jewels, pictures, and a great quantity of cochineal, several thousand barrels and casks of fine snuffs were taken, which had been manufactured in different parts of Spain. Each of these contained four tin canisters of snuff of the best growth, and of the finest Spanish manufacture.

'With this plunder on board (which fell chiefly to the share of the land officers) the fleet was returning to England; but, on the way, it was resolved to pay a visit to Vigo, a considerable port in Spain, where the Admiral had advice that a number of galleons from the Havannah, richly laden, had put in. Here our fleet got in and destroyed most, or all of the Spanish shipping, and the plunder was exceedingly rich and valuable.

'It now came to the turn of the sea officers and sailors to be snuff proprietors and merchants; for, at Vigo, they became possessed of prodigious quantities of gross snuff, from the Havannah, in bales, bags, and scrows, [2]  which were designed for manufacture in different parts of Spain. Thus, though snuff taking was very little known or practised in England, at that period, the quantities taken in this expedition, (which was estimated at fifty tons weight,) plainly shew that in the other countries of Europe, snuff was held in great estimation, and that the taking of it was considered not at all unfashionable.

'The fleet having returned to England, and the ships being ordered to be laid in their several ports, the sea officers and sailors brought their snuff (which was called, by way of victorious distinction, Vigo Snuff,) to a very quick and cheap market; waggon-loads of it being sold at Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Chatham, for not more than three or four pence per pound.

'This sort of bale snuff had never been seen or known in England before, except through some Spanish Jews, who,


in the present case, bought up almost the whole quantity at a considerable advantage.

'The land officers, who were possessed of the fine snuffs taken at Port St. Mary, sold some of them in the several ports at which they landed. Others of them, however, understood better the nature of the commodity which had fallen to their share, and kept it for several years, selling it off by degrees, for very high prices.

'From the above mentioned quantity of different snuffs, thus distributed throughout the kingdom, novelty being quickly embraced by us in England, arose the custom and fashion of snuff taking; and, growing upon the whole nation, by degrees, it is now almost as universal here, as in any other part of Europe.'

But snuff was not always sold ready made: people made their own, out of roll tobacco-by means of rasps, which were generally carried in the pocket. Specimens of these rasps may be seen at the , but, unless they are in some loan collection, they are very poor examples. In private collections, and especially on the Continent, are some of them, being exquisite specimens of ivory carving. 'Then there's the Miscellany, an apron for Stella, a pound of chocolate, without sugar, for Stella, a fine snuff rasp of ivory, given me by Mrs. St. John for Dingley, and a large roll of tobacco, which she must hide, or cut shorter out of modesty, and four pair of spectacles for the Lord knows who.' [3] 

Here we see how customary it was for ladies to take snuff in , although seems to be shocked at it, as quite a new fashion in . Vide his letter in (344): ' I have writ to you three or four times to desire you would take notice of an impertinent Custom the Women, the fine Women, have lately fallen into, of taking Snuff. This silly Trick is attended with such a Coquet Air in some Ladies, and such a sedate Masculine one in others, that I can not tell which to most complain of; but they are to me equally disagreeable. Mrs. Saunter is so impatient of being without it, that she takes it as often as she does Salt


at meals; and as she affects a wonderful Ease and Negligence in all her manners, an upper Lip mixed with Snuff and the Sauce is what is presented to the Observation of all who have the honour to eat with her. The pretty Creature her Niece does all she can to be as disagreeable as her Aunt; and, if she is not so offensive to the Eye, she is quite as much to the Ear, and makes up all she wants in a confident Air, by a nauseous Rattle of the Nose, when the Snuff is delivered, and the Fingers make the Stops and Closes on the Nostrils. . . . But Flavilla is so far taken with her Behaviour in this kind, that she pulls out her Box (which is indeed full of good Brazile) in the middle of the Sermon ;[4]  and to shew she has the Audacity of a well bred Woman, she offers it to the Men, as well as to the Women who sit near her .... On Sunday was sennight, when they came about for the Offering, she gave her Charity with a very good Air, but at the same Time asked the Church warden if he would take a Pinch.'

But, if the ladies took snuff, how much more did the men ? who were especially addicted to 'the humour of taking SNUFF, and looking dirty about the mouth by way of ornament.' They took snuff 'with a very Jantee Air,' [5]  as is well exemplified by 's humorous puff in (138): ' The Exercise of the Snuff Box, according to the most fashionable Airs and Motions, in opposition to the Exercise of the Fan, will be taught with the best plain or perfumed Snuff at 's, Perfumer, at the Corner of Beaufort Buildings in , and Attendance given for the Benefit of the young Merchants about the Exchange for two hours every day at Noon, except Sundays, at a Toy Shop near Garraway's Coffee House. There will likewise be Taught The Ceremony of the Snuff box, or Rules for offering Snuff to a Stranger, a Friend, or a Mistress, according to the Degrees of Familiarity or Distance; with an Explanation of the Careless, the Scornful, the Politick, and the Surly Pinch, and the Gestures proper to each of them.'

Snuff was not always taken with the finger and thumb,


but a spoon was used-as it is now, in some parts of Scotland, Lapland, Sweden, Norway, and China. In the prologue of a play called ',' published in I706, this habit is mentioned.

To Noddles cram'd with Dighton's musty Snuft Whose nicer Tasts think Wit consists alone In Tunbridge Wooden Box with Wooden Spoon.

And in the play (Act 3):- . Madam, I beg your Pardon, 'tis what the Jews take; but I carry sweet Snuff for the Ladies. (Shows another box.) . A Spoon too, that's very gallant; for to see some People run their fat Fingers into a Box is as nauseous as eating without a Fork.

The prices of snuffs varied much in this reign: the following is the best list I can make out:- . . . . . s. d. s. d. s.d. s.d. s. d. Lisbon, p. oz. 1 6 1 8 and 1s. 2d. 2 p. 1b 26s. - 1 6 or p. 1b. 20s. Tunquin ,, 6 - - Spanish ,, 6 p. lb. 2s.6d. & 4s. - 3 6 to 5s. p. lb. - Havanna ,, 6 - 6 o p. lb. Seville ,, - 6 - - Italian ,, - 6 and s. - - Burgamot ,, 1 6 and s. - - Musty ,, 6 - - Brazile ,, 6 6s. p. lb. 84s. 2s. 6d. p. lb. 32s. 3s. p. oz.

A more exhaustive list could have been made, but enough is given to show the difference in price of the various sorts. These were more than have just been given, and included Oronoko, Barcelona, Portugal, Tonkar, Orangerie, Port St. Mary's, Alicant, Rancia, and Cabinet Havannah.

And there were snuffs which hardly came under the category of harmless sternutatories: as, 'The true Imperial Golden Snuff; which thousands of People have found to be the most effectual Remedy ever known, for all Distempers of the Head and Brain; It immediately cures the Headach, be the Pain ever so violent; instantly removes Drowsiness, Sleepiness, Giddiness and Vapours; it is most excellent against Deafness and Noise in the Ears; cures stoppages or cold in the Head, &c.; and far exceeds all other Snuff


for all Humours in the Eyes and Dimness of sight, and certainly prevents Appoplexies and Falling Sickness.'

Snuff played its part in helping to pay for the long war with France. [6]  '9 Feb. . Yesterday the House of Commons, in a Committee on Ways and means, resolved, that . . . a duty of 3s. per pound be laid upon Snuff above what it already pays, except that of Her Majesty's growth.'


[1] At Leeds.

[2] Raw hide packages.

[3] Journal to Stella, Nov. 3, 1711.

[4] See also Tatler, 140.

[5] Centlivre's The Wonder, a Woman A Keeps a Secret, ed. 1714.

[6] Luttrell.