|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!|
Before 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.
Each 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.