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First Smoking Englishman

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bristolloggerheads
1154189.  Mon Oct 19, 2015 7:15 am Reply with quote

The quote below comes from the Book of General Ignorance but what is the original source of the quote?

The first report of a smoking Englishman is of a sailor in Bristol in 1556, seen "emitting smoke from his nostrils"

 
Posital
1156292.  Fri Oct 30, 2015 3:22 am Reply with quote

Looks like QI is the primary source... !!

Although "The Medieval Heritage of Mexico" talks about Spaniards as the devil in the same way... (1992)

 
bemahan
1156317.  Fri Oct 30, 2015 6:25 am Reply with quote

Maybe it was just a very cold day.

 
gruff5
1156319.  Fri Oct 30, 2015 6:28 am Reply with quote

first smoking Englishman, smoking in England.

The first smoking Englishman no doubt happened stateside rather earlier

 
suze
1156333.  Fri Oct 30, 2015 8:02 am Reply with quote

One of the QI Elves is a fellow called Mat Coward, and Mr Coward also writes / used to write a column called "Mythconceptions" for the Fortean Times. That column has / had the same basic premise as QI - to explain why stuff that you thought you knew was in fact utterly wrong.

One of his columns was about Sir Walter Raleigh, and demonstrated that he was not - as many appeared to believe - the first to bring either potatoes or tobacco to Britain. Sir Walter was four years old in 1556 when that man in Bristol was seen "emitting smoke from his nostrils", and his first trip to America wasn't until 1584.

It was from there that Mat brought the "emitting smoke from his nostrils" line to QI. He cites his sources for his earlier piece about Sir Walter as The Vegetarian, Autumn 1999 (presumably focusing mainly on potatoes) and The Pipeman, Autumn 1999 (which presumably has more to say about smoking).

The Pipeman was the journal of a pipe smokers' society which no longer exists, and back numbers might not be easy to find. But it's as far back as I can go for a source for the "emitting smoke from his nostrils" line.

Incidentally, tobacco use wasn't referred to as "smoking" until about 1700. Before that, it was known as "drinking smoke".

 
Posital
1156392.  Fri Oct 30, 2015 1:49 pm Reply with quote

Which is the most authoritative source for smoking in 1556?

a) The Vegetarian 1999
b) The Pipeman 1999; or
c) Something else.

 
suze
1156452.  Fri Oct 30, 2015 6:50 pm Reply with quote

You may very well ask!

We don't know just what it said in (probably) The Pipeman, or whether that article in term cited a source.

Mat also mentions a Spanish report from 1498. A guy who had been on one of Columbus' expeditions got himself arrested for fighting in the street in Barcelona. Fighting in the street isn't that serious of an offence, but supposedly the guy lit a cigarette while waiting at the precinct - at which point he was charged with "consorting with the Devil" and sentenced to ten years.

It may be that The Medieval Heritage of Mexico, which you mention above, is referring to the same incident.

 
Posital
1156475.  Sat Oct 31, 2015 3:24 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
It may be that The Medieval Heritage of Mexico, which you mention above, is referring to the same incident.
Well, this may be stretching it a bit, as the person who saw this in the carribean believed it actually was the devil. I just interpreted it as a Spaniard - fanciful, eh.

But the complete quote is "emitting smoke from his nostrils, fire from his eyes and feet like a gryphon's and a tail like a bats' and with two horns". The stranded person who saw it (Maese Joan) was peeing at the time, but when he got his "shit" together chased the devil all around the island with a companion.

The Vegetarian is looking much more authoritative at this point.

 
PDR
1156488.  Sat Oct 31, 2015 5:11 am Reply with quote

Posital wrote:

But the complete quote is "emitting smoke from his nostrils, fire from his eyes and feet like a gryphon's and a tail like a bats' and with two horns".


I'd guess he was smoking unfiltered gauloises rather than Dunhill extra-low-tar lights then. The gryphon-feet thing is pretty rare even then - barely more than 10% get it...

PDR

 

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