My friends for some years now have remarked that I am an inveterate consumer of tobacco. That is true, but my habits with regard to tobacco have changed. I have no doubt that you will say, when I have explained to you what my present purpose is, that my taste has deteriorated, but I do not so regard it.
Whenever I held a smoking-party at my house, I found that my guests had always just taken the pledge.
Let me tell you briefly the history of my personal relation to tobacco. It began, I think, when I was a lad, and took the form of a quid, which I became expert in tucking under my tongue. Afterward I learned the delights of the pipe, and I suppose there was no other youngster of my age who could more deftly cut plug tobacco so as to make it available for pipe-smoking.
Well, time ran on, and there came a time when I was able to gratify one of my youthful ambitions—I could buy the choicest Havana cigars without seriously interfering with my income. I smoked a good many, changing off from the Havana cigars to the pipe in the course of a day’s smoking.
At last it occurred to me that something was lacking in the Havana cigar. It did not quite fulfil my youthful anticipations. I experimented. I bought what was called a seed-leaf cigar with a Connecticut wrapper. After a while I became satiated of these, and I searched for something else, The Pittsburg stogy was recommended to me. It certainly had the merit of cheapness, if that be a merit in tobacco, and I experimented with the stogy.
Then, once more, I changed off, so that I might acquire the subtler flavor of the Wheeling toby. Now that palled, and I looked around New York in the hope of finding cigars which would seem to most people vile, but which, I am sure, would be ambrosial to me. I couldn’t find any. They put into my hands some of those little things that cost ten cents a box, but they are a delusion.
I said to a friend, “I want to know if you can direct me to an honest tobacco merchant who will tell me what is the worst cigar in the New York market, excepting those made for Chinese consumption—I want real tobacco. If you will do this and I find the man is as good as his word, I will guarantee him a regular market for a fair amount of his cigars.”
We found a tobacco dealer who would tell the truth—who, if a cigar was bad, would boldly say so. He produced what he called the very worst cigars he had ever had in his shop. He let me experiment with one then and there. The test was satisfactory.
This was, after all, the real thing. I negotiated for a box of them and took them away with me, so that I might be sure of having them handy when I want them.
I discovered that the “worst cigars,” so called, are the best for me, after all.
MARK TWAIN’S SPEECHES – By Mark Twain