Category Archives: smoking

Sex only at the end of an elaborate pas de deux, if even then

Dalrymple observes that the world depicted by Alan Thomas in The Surgeon (1964)

would be almost as remote to a young person today as that of, say, the court of Frederick the Great.

The surgeon

is called to the hospital because a minor Conservative politician, Sir Humphry Halland, Bart., has had a car crash and fractured his lumbar vertebrae, on which the surgeon operates. In those days, if the novel is to be believed, titles still inspired awe; when Halland’s young wife asks to be called Gloria instead of my lady it is a sign of her broadminded and democratising informality.

The surgeon and Lady Halland

fall in love while Halland is flat on his back in hospital. They do so very chastely, I must say, despite Lady Halland being 20 years younger than her husband. He is referred to throughout the book as if he were an old man, though he is only 53.

The novel, Dalrymple observes, is

Lady Chatterley in reverse.

The world that Thomas portrays is one in which

  • hospital consultants are gods
  • nurses are ministering angels
  • divorce is an utter scandal
  • porters and butlers are deferential
  • Daimlers are chauffeur-driven
  • sex occurs only at the end of an elaborate pas de deux, if even then
  • the rich smoke as a matter of course

Dalrymple wonders if such a world ever existed.

The good old days

Dalrymple is old enough to remember a time when people freely enjoyed their pipes or cigarettes in London Underground carriages and everyone ‘took the fug for granted, as a quasi-natural phænomenon’.

Dalrymple in Dublin

Mullet’s bar, Amiens Street

Renewing his acquaintance with the city, Dalrymple

can’t help feeling that it has lost some of its savour, its soul. Smoky bars are no more: smoking has been banned and the Irish public has obeyed the law without a murmur. I don’t understand why there can’t be bars for smokers; no one would be forced to go into them. Bars in which there is smoking are better fun than bars in which there is none.

When Dalrymple first came to Ireland,

the clergy were the aristocracy. A priest’s word was law.

The Parish Priest, from a painting by Jack B. Yeats

Now in Dublin,

priests do not dare wear clerical garb outside church grounds. It is not yet illegal for them to do so, as in Mexico, but they think it prudent not to do so; for these onetime demigods, deputies of God on earth, are regarded with such distaste by some of the population that they are likely to be insulted, spat at or punched as they walk down the street.

Indeed, Dalrymple notes, it is now

much safer for a Catholic priest publicly to avow what he is by his dress in England — traditionally a virulently anti-Catholic country — than it is in Ireland, where Catholicism was for years the bastion of Irish resistance against English domination.

Dalrymple has this to say of the Christian Brothers:

They inculcated learning by means, or at least with the assistance, of the cane. They were dedicated teachers, and they gave an opportunity to many children of the poor to rise above their social circumstance. If they were bigoted, they were also enlightened.

A really good man

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-16-49-13Dalrymple draws attention to the opening of Sir Henry H. Bashford’s Augustus Carp, Esq., By Himself, Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man (1924):

It is customary, I have noticed, in publishing an autobiography to preface it with some sort of apology. But there are times, and surely the present is one of them, when to do so is manifestly unnecessary. In an age when every standard of decent conduct has either been torn down or is threatened with destruction; when every newspaper is daily reporting scenes of violence, divorce, and arson; when quite young girls smoke cigarettes and even, I am assured, sometimes cigars; when mature women, the mothers of unhappy children, enter the sea in one-piece bathing-costumes; and when married men, the heads of households, prefer the flicker of the cinematograph to the Athanasian Creed — then it is obviously a task, not to be justifiably avoided, to place some higher example before the world.

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Bashford was the king’s physician

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With unction and humility Augustus describes his virtuous youth and manhood and his efforts to rid society of strong drink and tobacco, dancing, the theatre, and other manifestations of man’s lower nature; not omitting his surrender to the wiles of an actress or what ensued when she plied him with intoxicants disguised as fruit juice.

With unction and humility Augustus describes his virtuous youth and manhood and his efforts to rid society of strong drink and tobacco, dancing, the theatre, and other manifestations of man’s lower nature; not omitting his surrender to the wiles of an actress or what ensued when she plied him with intoxicants disguised as fruit juice.

Smoking kills, but not quickly enough

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 08.57.11Such is Dalrymple’s view, so much does he

detest the filthy habit.

On the other hand,

I detest the anti-smokers, the Savonarolas of public health. I want people to spite them by smoking, though not in my breathing space.

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The dictatorship of libertinism

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 17.34.55The life’s work of Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, who has died aged 70, was, writes Dalrymple,

a phænomenon of sociological and social-psychological significance, at least in the Western world.

Lemmy was to the end a rebellious adolescent, emerging as

a senile rebel who could never bear to leave his adolescence behind, proud of his degeneracy unto death. In this, he was an authentic representative of modern psychological development: a short period of precocity followed by a long one of arrested development.

Lemmy is quoted as saying:

I founded the filthiest rock group in the world.

There is in these words, says Dalrymple,

an undoubted tone of self-congratulation. He had done something not just filthy, but superlatively filthy, and therefore, according to his own inverted scale of values, outstandingly meritorious.

Lemmy once said:

If one day we come to live near you, that will be the end of your lawn.

In other words,

ugliness will be my beauty, and furthermore I will impose it on you.

Interviewed once in a place where smoking was prohibited, Lemmy is quoted as saying:

I’ll need another reason not to smoke than that it’s forbidden.

Thus

he was the sole authority as to when, where, and whether to smoke. Others counted for nothing.

When, writes Dalrymple,

one acts a part for long enough, it ceases to be a mere act and one becomes what one pretends to be. The result of careers such as Mr Kilmister’s is to encourage a culture or subculture, almost unique in my experience, lacking all beauty, value, virtue, charm, or refinement. Its apotheosis would be the dictatorship of libertinism in which personal whim would play the part of the supposed word of God.

Postcard from Scarborough

The Grand Hotel as it was. Dalrymple writes: 'The building is far from my favourite in the town, but it undoubtedly has  magnificence . Now the marble pillars of the portico are used mainly to support bronchitics, exiled from indoors, as they puff desperately at their fags. Criminally vulgar posters, advertising cheap meals and rooms, are posted on the dirty windows, surrounded by finely crafted architectural detail. Everywhere there are small, as well as large, signs of degeneration.  No greatness, no vastness of enterprise, no magnificence of appearance. We are barbarians living in the ruins of a civilisation.'

The Grand Hotel (1867) as it was. Dalrymple writes of the building today: ‘The marble pillars of the portico are used mainly to support bronchitics, exiled from indoors, as they puff desperately at their fags. Criminally vulgar posters, advertising cheap meals and rooms, are posted on the dirty windows, surrounded by finely crafted architectural detail. Everywhere there are small, as well as large, signs of degeneration. No greatness, no vastness of enterprise. We are barbarians living in the ruins of a civilisation.’

DBB

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 23.56.43Dalrymple behaving badly

He settles down to enjoy a movie at the cinema, having been dragged there by his chums. A notice from the British Board of Film Classification, shown before the start, warns gravely that the film will contain possibly corrupting scenes of tobacco ingestion.

I guffawed: not only could I not stop myself, I considered it my public duty to do so.

Of tobacco and fiscal responsibility

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 23.56.43Smokers, Dalrymple points out,

  • by their admirable habit contribute lavishly to the Exchequer; and
  • by dying early, reduce pension costs.

Of criminality, smoking and tattoos

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Burman, from Customs of the World, ed. Walter Hutchinson (1912)

The statistical association between criminality and smoking is very strong, observes Dalrymple (from 06:08 in the video).

The association, he points out, is

much stronger than the connection between criminality and poverty. It’s much stronger than the connection between criminality and unemployment. It’s very nearly as strong as that between criminality and tattooing.