THE FLOWER FAIRY.
You have doubtless heard it mentioned that
Christopher Columbus, when he landed in Cuba, about the year 1492, found the
natives all on the seashore, with bows in their hands and pipes in their mouths.
The naturalist of the expedition, being
directed to examine the substance whose perfume these wild men inhaled,
discovered the tobacco plant. It did not, however, then bear this name – a name
derived from the town of Tobago, where cigarettes grow, ready curled, upon their
Tobacco ought to have been named in honor of
this naturalist. He, however, found his Americus Vespucius in one John Nicot,
who was ambassador from his most Christian majesty Francis II, near the court of
Sebastian, king of Portugal.
Historians place the embassy of John Nicot in
the year 1560.
Tobacco, then, must have been discovered about
the close of the fifteenth century – and introduced into France towards the
close of the century following. The middle ages smoked.
It was in the time of Louis XIII.
nose first enjoyed the inexpressible delights of snuff-taking. The snuff-box of
Marion Delorme made quite a sensation in his day. I would fain believe that it
is still preserved in the museum of Dusommerard.
M. de Larochefoucauld was distinguished for
the skill with which he used to twirl his snuff-box between his fingers, and
then dexterously slip it into his waistcoat pocket. These movements have been
very happily imitated by several of the best actors in French comedy.
With these few details, you know enough to
pass in the world for a person of learning. For this purpose we give them to you
– but we do not, ourselves, regard them as at all authentic.
We assign to tobacco a widely different
That John Nicot, on his return from Portugal,
paid his respects to Catherine de Medicis, with a pound of tobacco; and that
from this circumstance the plant was called the queen’s herb: --
That Cardinal Sainte-Croix and the legate
Tornabone carried tobacco into Italy, under the doubly-false name of the herb
of Sainte-Croix and of Tornabone: --
That tobacco was at one time considered a
poison; and that afterwards it was extolled to the skies, under such names as
Antarctic panacea – holy plant – the herb for every malady: --
That is has been called Bugloss and Peruvian
That about the year 1690, the consumers of the
article who had read Tournefort’s botany, used to go to the tobacco-shops and
ask for twopence worth of Nicotiana: --
All this is very likely.
That in the year 1619, King James I. wrote a
book against tobacco, which he called Misocapnos – which was answered by
the Portuguese Jesuits in another book, call Antimisocapnos: --
That in 1622, Neandri published his
Tobacologia; that in 1628, Raphaël Thorius gave to the world his Hymn to
Tobacco; and that in 1845, Barthelemy came out with his Art of Smoking:
That Pope Urban VIII. hurled the thunders of
excommunication against all who made use of tobacco: --
That Queen Elizabeth forbade snuff-taking in
the churches, and authorized the beadles to confiscate all refractory
That the Persian shah, Amurath IV. and the
grand duke of Muscovy, interdicted the practices of smoking and snuff-taking,
under penalty of having the nose cut off: --
That at this very time, in spite of Misocapnos,
-- of the excommunication by Adrian VIII. and of the edicts of Amurath, tobacco
brings annually to the treasury of the state, more than one hundred millions of
All this may be a matter of history: but the
truth is, that the Flower Fairy was inconsolable after the departure of her
In her vexation, she determined to play upon
them some clever trick in her own way.
“The flowers,” said she, “have become women.
As such, they cannot do without the homage of men. If I can contrive to deprive
them of that, they will soon be disgusted with the earth.”
She was thinking at the time of a genius,
young, handsome, and brilliant – a genius of intrigue, if ever there were one,
who had suddenly relinquished all intercourse with fairies, and who, in the
retirement of his grotto, had given himself up to the pleasures of smoking.
He had the finest collection of pipes that was
anywhere to be found. Sometimes he smoked in one of pear – at another time, in
one of polished emerald – and again, in a nut of virgin gold. He had a special
talent for imparting to his pipes that warm and deep tint, that sort of golden
burnish, which so greatly enhances their value. Every thing yielded under his
skilful and regular puffs. To use a common expression, we might say that this
genius had acquired the skill to culotter the diamond.*
*The magnesite, of which the meerschaum pipe
is made, is originally soft and white. The process called culotter,
imparts to it hardness and color. The pipe is carefully wrapped in soft leather,
sometimes, after having been first covered with a thin coat of white wax. It
must then be smoked with great regularity, precision, and constancy. In time it
acquires a mottled aspect of brown and yellow tints, which gives it high value
among genuine smokers. In Germany, wealthy and titled young men sometimes, for
this purpose, intrust their meerschaums to the family of a cobbler, or some such
sedentary artist. Here it passes from the father to the mother – and
from the mother to the son – who successively puffing away, with astonishing
perseverance, and with all the regularity of a metronome, in due time effect the
important result. – [Translator.]
“What is the condition of woman in the East –
in all those countries where opium is smoked? A plaything, and nothing more. The
men, absorbed in the perpetual delights of intoxication, never think of their
wives; or if they do, it is but to make them the subjects of their capricious
whims. The Chinese woman has lost the use of her feet; her complexion is hidden
beneath a mass of paint; her eyebrows are eradicated; and she is nothing else
than a curious animal – a living screen-figure, with which her possessor amuses
himself in the interval between two ecstasies. But, “said to herself the Flower
Fairy, “opium is not suited to the climate of Europe. We must put tobacco in its
“If we teach man to smoke, he will, like the
genius, drive woman away from him. This shall be my revenge.” It was thus that
tobacco was invented.
We know not the means which she used to make
the virtues of this plant known upon the earth. Perhaps she employed, as agents,
the natives of Cuba, and John Nicot. One thing is certain: there is not a woman
now living who does not deplore its introduction.
The husband abandons his fireside and his
wife, to go and smoke in his club, or at the tavern.
The conversations of the saloon are deserted,
so anxious are the gentlemen to rejoin their friend, the cigar, waiting for them
at the door of the hôtel.
If a quarrel take place between the lover and his
mistress, the unfortunate maiden can no longer resort to a long sting of
reproaches and bitter accusations. She may talk as long as she pleases; he will
listen with patience and resignation – he has just lit his cigar.
Observe that young man who walks pensively in
yonder grove. Is it the portrait of his lady-love which he holds in his hand,
and contemplates so affectionately? It is his cigar-case.
It may be that she embroidered it for him. It
is, in fact, the only souvenir which one now-a-days cares to receive.
Tobacco is man’s divinity. If the dream of
utopian politicians should ever be realized, and the different nations of Europe
should at length resolve themselves into one great family, the coat-of-arms
adopted by this new alliance will doubtless be the following: -- a tobacco-plant
spreading its roots over a map of the world, quartered with pipes – bearing
cigars on a field of tobacco-pouches, with a lighted narguilé.*
a pipe used in Persia.
For a little while the fairy believed that she
had actually succeeded in her enterprise. Woman was entirely deserted; her
empire had ceased to exist. Some husbands even began to talk of confining their
wives in seraglios – of dislocating their ankles – of boring their noses with
fish-bones – and of painting them blue.
But the women turned away the storm, and their
subjugation lasted but a little while. They very soon found a way to reconquer
man: they began to smoke themselves.
The Flower Fairy, if she would
accomplish her object, must pull some other wire.