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FUMARE

Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

True to Our Traditions



CHESTERTON ON TOBACCO

Of course numberless Americans smoke numberless cigars; a great many others eat cigars, which seems to me a more occult pleasure. But there does exist an extraordinary idea that ethics are involved in some way; and many who smoke really disapprove of smoking. I remember once receiving two American interviewers on the same afternoon; there was a box of cigars in front of me and I offered one to each in turn. Their reaction (as they would probably call it) was very curious to watch. The first journalist stiffened suddenly and silently declined in a very cold voice. He could not have conveyed more plainly that I had attempted to corrupt an honorable man with a foul and infamous indulgence; as if I were the Old Man of the Mountain offering him hashish that would turn him into an assassin. The second reaction was even more remarkable. The second journalist first looked doubtful; then looked sly; then seemed to glance about him nervously, as if wondering whether we were alone, and then said with a sort of crestfallen and covert smile: "Well, Mr. Chesterton, I'm afraid I have the habit."

As I also have the habit, and have never been able to imagine how it could be connected with morality or immorality, I confess that I plunged with him deeply into an immoral life. In the course of our conversation, I found he was otherwise perfectly sane. He was quite intelligent about economics or architecture; but his moral sense seemed to have entirely disappeared. He really thought it rather wicked to smoke. He had "no standard of abstract right or wrong"; in him it was not merely moribund; it was apparently dead. But anyhow, that is the point and that is the test. Nobody who has an abstract standard of right and wrong can possibly think it wrong to smoke a cigar.

--G.K. Chesterton from "On American Morals"

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