T is for Margaret Thompson

This is my contribution to Round Thirteen of ABC Wednesday. I am focusing on people for the fourth time, some famous, some infamous and some half-forgotten, although I am worried that I may have exhausted some letters of the alphabet, but I’ll see how it goes!

Partaker of SnuffBefore the rise and fall of cigarettes, the most common way of partaking of tobacco was in its powdered form as snuff and there was no more devoted sniffer of snuff than Margaret Thompson of old London town.

In truth, we know little of Thompson’s life but are in doubt about her fondness for snuff from the instructions she left in her will when she died in 1776.

First of all she ordered that her coffin be lined with as many of her unwashed handkerchiefs as could be found and that her body be completely covered with the best scotch snuff instead of the usual flowers since ‘nothing can be so fragrant and refreshing to me as that precious powder’.

No-one was to approach Thompson’s coffin while it was open, presumably because they might take some of its precious cargo, but once closed it was to be carried by six of the greatest snuff-takers in the parish of St James, Westminster.

SnuffEach of the pall-bearers wore snuff-coloured beaver hats instead of the usual mourning attire and they were accompanied by six old maids wearing hoods and carrying a box of snuff for the refreshment of the pallbearers on their journey.

The minister who led the procession was allowed a certain amount of snuff (not exceeding one pound) while Thompson’s servant walked alongside throwing large handfuls of the stuff to the following throng.

For those unable to attend the funeral, Miss Thompson left orders for two bushels of snuff to be given away at her house in Boyle Street in place of the more usual wake fare of sherry and sandwiches.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

5 comments… Add yours
  • Leslie 27th November 2013

    Holy Snuff!

    abcw team

  • Roger Green 27th November 2013

    I’m listening to Smoke Rings by k.d. lang right now. Great choice for the week of the great American smokeout.
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  • Beaver Huntsman Pudding 29th November 2013

    This gives me ideas for my funeral when I snuff it! By the way – what exactly is a “beaver hat”? You might be surprised at the image I have in my head right now!…But then again you might not be!

  • Kate 3rd December 2013

    Fascinating. I was so ignorant I didn’t even know that I didn’t know what snuff was. I thought it was some sort of drug. Oh wait – it is.


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