July 16, 2007

The Two Faces of Tobacco

Category: Literature :: Permalink

This morning, I finished reading Patrick O’Brian’s The Mauritius Command, the fourth in his series of novels about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin.  As usual, it was absolutely delightful.  In this one, Aubrey is a commodore in the Indian Ocean, still during the time of the Napoleonic wars, with Maturin along as ship’s doctor and a bit more.

Here are Stephen’s comments about how well one of his prescriptions was working for a colleague’s patient:

“May we not in part attribute his activity to the roborative, stimulating use of coffee, and to the general soothing effect of mild tobacco, which has set his humours in equilibrio?  Tobacco, divine, rare, superexcellent tobacco, which goes far beyond all their panaceas, potable gold, and philosopher’s stones, a sovereign remedy to all diseases.  A good vomit, I confess, a virtuous herb, if it be well qualified and opportunely taken, and medicinally used, but as it is commonly abused by most men, which take it as tinkers do ale, ’tis a plague, a mischief, a violent purger of goods, lands, health; hellish, devilish and damned tobacco, the ruin and overthrow of body and soul.  Here, however, it is medicinally taken; and I congratulate myself upon the fact that in your hands there is no question of tinkers’ abuse” (pp. 201-202).

So there you have it: the next time you’re feeling down and sick, Dr. Maturin prescribes coffee and a mild cigar, taken opportunely.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:18 pm | Discuss (1)

One Response to “The Two Faces of Tobacco”

  1. Jim Says:

    I’ve read nineteen of the Aubrey/Maturin books. I haven’t gotten around to the last one, though. I can’t really bear the thought that, once I’ve finished it, there won’t be any more.


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