A great interview with Mark Twain
An Illustrated Monthly
Jerome K. Jerome &
Chatto & Windus,
FLIRTING WITH THE LADY NICOTINE.
MR. HATTON appears to be in doubt whether Mark Twain smokes three hundred cigars a year-or a month. There is a slight difference both to tobacconist and consumer. I have been told that his annual, allowance is three thousand cigars. But it must not be thought that his devotion to tobacco stops at this trivial quantity. The cigars merely represent his dessert in the way of smoking. The solid repast of nicotine is taken by means of a corn-cob pipe. The bowl of this pipe is made from the hollowed-out cob of an ear of Indian corn. It is a very light pipe, and it colours brown as you use it, and ultimately black, so they call it in America "The Missouri Meerschaum." I was much impressed by the ingenuity with which Mark Twain fills his corn-cob pipe. The humorist is an inspired Idler. He is a lazy man, and likes to do things with the least trouble to himself. He smokes a granulated tobacco which he keeps in a long check bag made of silk and rubber. When he has finished smoking, he knocks the residue from the bowl of the pipe, takes out the stem, places it in his vest pocket, like a pencil or a stylographic pen, and throws the bowl into the bag containing the granulated tobacco. When he wishes to smoke again (this is usually five minutes later) he fishes out the bowl, which is now filled with tobacco, inserts the stern, and strikes a light. Noticing that his pipe was very-aged and black, and knowing that he was about to enter a country where corn-cob pipes are not, I asked him if he had brought a supply of pipes with him.
"Oh, no," he answered, "I never smoke a new corn-cob pipe. A new pipe irritates the throat. No corn-cob pipe is fit for anything until it has been used at least a fortnight."
"How do you manage then?" I asked. "Do you follow the example of the man with the tight boots;--wear them a couple of weeks before they can be put on?"
"No," said Mark Twain, "I always hire a cheap man--a man who doesn't amount to much, anyhow--who would be as well--or better--dead, and let him break in the pipe for me. I get him to smoke the pipe for a couple of weeks, then put in a new stem, and continue operations as long as the pipe holds together."
Mark Twain brought into France with him a huge package of boxes of cigars and tobacco which he took, personal charge of when he placed it on the deck while he lit a fresh cigar he put his foot on this package so as to be sure of its safety. He didn't appear to care what became of the rest of his luggage as long as the tobacco was safe.
"Going to smuggle that in?" I asked.
"No, sir. I'm the only man on board this steamer who has any tobacco. I will say to the Customs officer, 'Tax me what you like, but don't meddle with the tobacco.' They don't know what tobacco is in France."
Another devotee of the corn-cob pipe is Mr. Rudyard Kipling, who is even more of a connoisseur in pipes than is Mark Twain, which reminds me that Mr. Kipling interviewed Mr. Clemens, and, although the interview has been published before, I take the liberty of incorporating part of it in this symposium. www.Aristocob.com