16th October, No Comments
By John Watson
Holmes displays a vast knowledge of the uses and properties of tobacco in solving cases. His experience with both tobacco and tobacco ash has been broadened by his being such a chronically heavy smoker, prompting me to note, somewhat bitterly, that he was a “self-poisoner by cocaine and tobacco” [FIVE]
He often sits for hours shrouded in smoke. Once during the case of The Hound of the Baskervilles, as I returned to Baker Street “my fears [of a fire] were set at rest, for it was the acrid fumes of strong coarse tobacco which took me by the throat and set me coughing.”
His particular favourite is shag tobacco which he keeps in the toe end of a Persian slipper. Shag is a strong coarse tobacco much inferior to today’s shag which is often used for rolling cigarettes. He also keeps it in various tobacco pouches strewn across his mantlepiece.
Before breakfast he fills his pipe with “all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the day before, all carefully dried and collected on the corner of the mantlepiece” [ENGR].
He most commonly uses a black clay pipe, though I think it was once white! Occasionally he will use a briar with an amber stem. When a problem is taxing him he seems to prefer his cherrywood.
He never, never uses a Calabash. That was the pipe used by William Gillette in his otherwise accurate portrayal of Holmes and along with the deerstalker and the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” are the stuff of fiction!
His pipes, like his tobacco are all over the place (his such an untidy person!). They are scattered over his mantlepiece and some are in the coal scuttle with the cigars.
As some of you may know, he has made a special study of tobacco ashes and believes he can distinguish at a glance the ash of any known brand of cigar or tobacco. He has written a monograph on the subject entitled “Upon the Distinction Between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos” [SIGN].