In 1943, as a 16-yr old Cardiff Library assistant, I wondered what snuff
-- referred to by Dickens etc. -- could possibly be. I saw
a little tin of S.P. snuff in a tobacconist's window, bought it and tried
a week later it had all gone, and I found myself most uncomfortable without
it. I had addicted myself.
I bought more, and a few weeks later a De La Salle brother from my old
prep school came into the library, saw me taking snuff, and offered me
a pinch of his. A revelation! It was Irish High Dry Toast.
A little old lady in a corner shop near St. John's Church used to sell
me High Dry Toast in quarter ounces, put into little triangular paper packets:
all I could afford on my wages of 16 shillings (= 80p.) a week.
I spent many happy hours taking Irish High Dry Toast from my (quite inadequate)
snuff tin, while doing wartime fire-watching all night and dipping into
the rich resources of the library's pornography.
| A bit
later I took to cigarettes. As a member of the Young Communist League
(YCL), I was one of a number sternly bidden (we presumed on the orders
of the genial Uncle Joe) to infiltrate and take over the local branch of
the British Federation of Young Co-operators (BFYC). The proceedings
at the latter were designed to provide a jolly time for youths, and that
was so hideously boring that I had to accept cigarettes when I had run
out of snuff in order to keep sane. So I was stuck on smoking when
our ruse was discovered and all we YCL comrades were expelled by the BFYC.
a year at University, I was called up and found myself in Palestine
-- Eretz Israel. To my delight I found a tobacconist in Haifa who
sold tins of snuff, the lid embossed with a representation of a
Rabbi taking a pinch (apparently it is the done thing to take
snuff in the synagogue).
| So I was a
snuffer again, demobbed in 1948 -- after 3 delightful years in the sun,
being in military intelligence able to go wherever I liked, which was mainly
among the haverim at Kvutzat Maayan and in the wine cellars of Zikron Yaakov
-- able to afford only snuff as an impecunious undergraduate.
Going on to Oxford in 1951 I was delighted to find Fribourg
fine snuff shop at 130 High Street.
| I offered
my supervisor a pinch of snuff, but he looked puzzled and said "Surely,
only after dinner?" Years later I discovered, having
moved up the academic ladder, that after dinner the snuff box is passed
round like the port in Oxford's Colleges' Senior Common Rooms.
| As a young
lecturer teaching a logic class at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth,
one of my students was astonished to see me take snuff -- astonished,
because he was a Nigerian who thought snuff taking was peculiar only to
his tribe. He told me that in his tribe only men (after a puberty
ritual) were allowed to take snuff, women and children being allowed only
cigarettes. He brought in his snuff, in a large medicine bottle.
It was quite good (rather like Fribourg and Treyer's Etrenne).
| I opened an
account with Fribourg and Treyer: the disappearance of that institution
was a traumatic experience, leading to my intermittently falling back on
| But I am now firmly
settled on snuff taking and hope and pray that Wilsons (Sharrow) will survive
the rest of my dotage.