The Anatomy of Tobacco

Review: The Anatomy of Tobacco, Arthur Machen, 1884.

This is an 1884 work by Machen and his first publication.

It was published by George Redway, a bookseller, publisher, and entrepreneur who liked the 21-year old Machen and would eventually hire him.

The uncredited introduction in the Delphi Works of Arthur Machen suggests it’s a pastiche of “seventeenth century scholasticism” and follows similar parodies Jonathan Swift did. The only thing that comes to mind regarding Swift is vague memories of his “The Battle of the Books”. 

I imagine that it was written for amusement by Machen who was impoverished at the time and working as a journalist and tutor. 

It’s a paen to smoking, particularly pipe use. It’s credited to “Leolinus Siluriensis, Professor of Fumifical Philosophy in the University of Brentford”. 

After opening to a scene-setting bit of praise for Machen’s native Wales aka Siluria, we get an “historical introduction” into the “Esoteric Doctrines of Pipe Philosophy” and lots of quotes in Greek and Latin (Machen had a good classical education). We also get a tale of how Pythagoras brought tobacco to Greece. Then we get six chapters followed by two books with five chapters each. They take us through a taxonomic scheme about which tobaccos to smoke and how to smoke them and pipe selection. 

It’s moderately amusing for the humor around smoking and the mock philosophic structure. But I can’t really recommend it on its own merits, and it’s only for Machen completists.

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