The Fume of an Idle Braine:
James I and A Counter-blaste to Tobacco


James I anonymously published A Counter-blaste to Tobacco within a year of his accession to the English throne. Though thoroughly regal tone (an attentive contemporary reader might well have guessed its provenance),1 the Counter-blaste is decidedly limited in the ends it set for itself:

And since the Subject is but of Smoke, I thinke the fume of an idle braine, may serve for a sufficient battery against so fumous and feeble an enemy. If my grounds be found true, it is all I looke for; but if they carry the force of perswasion with them, it is all I can wish and more than I can expect.2

As we'll see, James had practical economic reasons for limiting his denunciation of tobacco to a moralizing tract, rather than attempting to contravene the trade by force of law. But the modesty of composition--"the fume of an idle braine"--counterpoised against the weakness of its object--"so fumous and feeble an enemy"--seems a puzzling disclaimer, given the aversion that the Counter-blaste displays against tobacco. Though no deep logician, James had been tutored in rhetoric through his youth by the Scottish humanist George Buchanan, and the Counter-blaste is a closely reasoned document from one who was confident enough in his literary gifts to emulate the Psalmist. And tobacco was no feeble enemy, but an important point of contact, not only with Virginia, but also with Spain's New World holdings--an item of particular significance since James was at the time negotiating his entente cordiale with the Spanish.

Though James certainly found smoking distasteful--the sincerity of his denunciation comes through clearly--the economic consequence of tobacco to a regent whose finances were hard pressed by Parliament accounts for the diminutive literary form and the disingenuous characterization of tobacco use as a trifle almost beneath mention: tobacco, that "fumous" matter, may have seemed hardly fit for an exercise in monarchical persuasion, but its insubstantiality did not obscure its significance to the Crown in particular, and to English culture in general. Against a background of increasing mercantile importance, tobacco was playing out a role as an instrument of self-fashioning in a broadening sector of English society. It was significant enough, indeed, to incite James's first extra-legal writing after taking the English throne. Lacking the apparatus of coercion and control available to the absolutist European monarchies, James chose to enter the pamphleteering skirmish that was being fought out over tobacco use.

. . . but as every one of these diseases, must from the King receive the owne cure proper for it, so there are some sorts of abuses in Common-wealths, that though they be of so base and contemptible a condition, as they are too low for the Law to looke on, and too meane for a King to interpone his authoritie, or bend his eye upon: yet they are corruptions, as well as the greatest of them.3

Why would James demur from his royal perogatives? The answer is set against two backgrounds: one, tobacco's insinuation into English culture and political economy; the other, a Jacobean ideology of state power, its derivation and expression. As James himself put it, "Incroach not upon the Prerogative of the Crowne. If there fall out a question that concerns my Prerogative or mystery of State, deal not with it."4 Not even James, in the context of a moralizing tract, could invoke the "mystery of State": where the idiomatic preference of a king runs counter to the broader economic interests of governance, the outcome is strictly persuasive--it is (as in the Counter-blaste) spoken in the language of exhortation and not in the half-hidden, transfigurative, and divinely manifested language of a law-giving, performative speech-act that is the source, ultimately, of kingly prerogative. First, though, to tobacco.

Tobacco appears to have been brought to France around 1560 by the French ambassador to Portugal, John Nicot (thus the eponymic "Nicotine"). Sir John Hawkins introduced it to England about five years later, where its use burgeoned in the last decades of the 16th century.5 As one of the Counter-blaste's annotators writes, "It was certainly known in England for a considerable time before Raleigh returned from his first voyage to Virginia in 1584. We have no evidence that Raleigh brought any tobacco with him. A subsequent expedition, which went out under Ralph Lane in 1585 and returned with Drake in 1586, learned the habit of tobacco-smoking, and did much to spread it in [England]."6 James's assertion that Raleigh was responsible for the introduction of tobacco to England--a legend then in wide currency--was mistaken: "it seems a miracle to me, how a custom springing from so vile a ground, and brought in by a father so generally hated [i.e., Raleigh], should be welcomed on so slender a warrant."7 As Jeffrey Knapp puts it:

The denunciation makes sure that James's subjects understand tobacco's political significance: for tobacco to be attacked means for Raleigh to have fallen, and at the same time, though only implicitly here, for pathetic, unprofitable Virginia to have been confiscated by the Crown.8

At any rate, by 1603, when James took the throne of England, tobacco use was already widespread, especially among the upper classes: "during the eighties and nineties," writes one historian, "it became almost a universal custom among courtiers and men about town."9 In 1599, an anonymous versifier wrote of his trip to the theater:

It chaunc'd me gazing at the Theater,
To Spie a Lock-Tobacco Chevalier
Clowding the loathing ayr with foggie fume
of Dock Tobacco friendly foe to rhume--10

During the early Stuart years, the origin of the tobacco used in England was changing; though most was still obtained by trade--licit or illicit--with the Spanish, a larger proportion was coming from England's poor colony. The first tobacco brought from Virginia was Nicotiana rustica, described by a Virginia colonist as "not of the best kynd, it is but poore and weake, and of a byting tast."11 In 1612, John Rolfe of Jamestown, with imported seed from the island of Trinidad and from Caracas, began growing a variety more akin to the mild "Spanish" tobacco; by 1618 forty thousand pounds of tobacco made their way from Jamestown to England12--not enough to make Virginia a profitable enterprise, though sufficient to cut into the contraband trade from Trinidad and Guiana.13

It wasn't long after its introduction that the custom of smoking percolated into the wealthier merchant classes. The German traveler Hentzner, who visited London in 1598 noted that the "English are constantly smoking tobacco. . . . They have pipes on purpose made of clay, into the further end of which they put the herb, so dry that it may be rubbed into powder; and putting fire to it, they draw the smoak into their mouths, which they puff out again through their nostrils, like funnels, along with it plenty of phlegm and defluxations from the head."14 Tobacco use spread well beyond London. By 1597, in fact, there was a flourishing tobacco trade in the outer counties, particularly in the western part of the island. Elizabeth had tried to impose the royal subsidy from imported goods on the already-flourishing tobacco trade in Cornwall, which led to sporadic attacks on customs officials who attempted to enforce her statutory right to a penny on every pound of cargo.15

Since England was then at war with Spain, which held the only significant tobacco-producing countries, the trade was illegal--a rationalization importers used to evade the customs duties. But in 1602, the first official figures on importation show that 16,128 pounds of tobacco entered the port of London. The amount grew rapidly: the average quantity of tobacco brought into England during the seven years ending September 21, 1621, was 142,085 pounds (and this from customs records; it's been estimated that at least as much again was smuggled).16 Increasing demand brought generally higher prices, though intermediate fluctuations were particularly volatile: in 1597, one pound of tobacco could be had for 35 shillings; by 1619, a pound fetched £1. Jeffrey Knapp, in his article on "Elizabethan Tobacco," sums up how tobacco, James's mere "fume," could displace even so patently fungible a commodity as silver specie: "John Aubrey's life of Raleigh (c. 1669-96) records how near the turn of the century the exchange of a trifle for a precious metal was quite literal: tobacco 'was sold then for its weight in silver.'"17 In 1613, English subjects were spending at least £200,000 a year on tobacco; and by 1621 the amount of tobacco consumed daily was something on the order of one thousand pounds.18

Who smoked? Almost everyone, or at least persons of every station indulged in the new practice. In the waning Tudor years, the extremely high price of tobacco may have limited its use among the poorest classes. Peace with Spain and increasing imports from Virginia stabilized the price, so that, in 1621, a contemporary records that "many of our people, and that of all sorts, doe greatly affect the taking of Tobacco."19 G. L. Apperson records the story of the parson of Thornton, in Buckinghamshire, who, when his supply of tobacco ran short, cut down the bell ropes and smoked them.20 A 1624 edition of Skelton's "Elinour Rumming" included some prefixed verses that illustrate how common that habit had become:

As I walked between
Westminster Hall
And the Church of Saint Paul,
And so thorow the citie,
Where I saw and did pitty
My country men's faces,
Sucking and drinking
A filthie weede stinking.21

In 1614, according to George Louis Beer's survey of the early history of tobacco, "there were said to be in London alone seven thousand shops selling tobacco."22 Beer quotes the Autobiography of Lord Herbert of Cherbury--an advocate of tobacco who took it as a remedy "against certain rheums and catarrhs"--that tobacco shops "were kept in Townes everywhere no less than tap-houses and tauerns."23

Nor was the habit limited to men. The title page of the 1611 quarto of The Roaring Girl by Middleton and Dekker shows Moll Cutpurse in britches and with a poniard, drawing furiously at a pipe.24 Another contemporary illustration, reproduced in the Rodale Press's edition of A Counter-blaste to Tobacco, pictures a lady holding a quaffing cup in one hand and a pipe in the other, while an obscurely menacing Silenus-like figure crouches in the background.25 The tradition that Raleigh induced Elizabeth to smoke is only vaguely substantiated. Apperson quotes Campbell's History of Virginia: "Raleigh offered her Majesty some tobacco to smoke, after two or three whiffs she was seized with a nausea. . . . But her Majesty in a short while recovering made the countess of Nottingham and all her maids smoke a whole pipe out among them."26 And in the Counter-blaste, James alludes to the domestically corrupting influence of second-hand smoke:

Moreover, which is a great iniquitie, and against all humanitie, the husband shall not bee ashamed, to reduce thereby his delicate, wholesome, and cleane complexioned wife, to that extremetie, that either shee must also corrupt her sweete breath therewith, or else resolve to live in a perpetuall stinking torment.27

Who, then, didn't smoke? Judging from the abundance of moralizing anti-tobacco pamphlets that appeared in Jacobean England, a great many people didn't, or at least a great many thought it an intemperate habit. The Counter-blaste is simply the best known (and among the earliest) of the anti-tobacco manifestos. Tobacco was, though prominently and openly used, prominently and openly considered a vice. And as a vice, it was associated with other vices. "In 1634," writes George Louis Beer, "it was said, that keepers of brothels used tobacco pipes as signs to indicate the nature of their houses."28 Some explicitly reveled in the reprobation: Richard Baines (the "infamous snitcher," in Knapp's phrase) in testimony before the Privy Council reported that Marlowe had said "that all they that love not tobacco & Boyes were fooles,"29 and went on to report Marlowe's assertion "that if Christ would have instituted the sacrament with more ceremonial Reverence it would have been had in more admiration, that it would have been much better administered in a Tobacco pipe."30

This is renaissance self-fashioning with a vengeance, with tobacco playing an auxiliary role to pederasty and blasphemy. The equation of the host to tobacco illustrates how tobacco had moved, in a very short time, from a peripheral, quasi-medicinal location in English society, to a locus so central that it could be called on to displace the mystery of a sacrament. One finds, in some of the tracts of the time, the interfusion of tobacco with religious infidelity, as though the transubstantiation from leaf to smoke was itself a miscreant threat to religious orthodoxy. A lengthy verse admonition against tobacco by Joshua Sylvester that appeared in a 1674 pamphlet along with a reprinting of the Counter-blaste, associated tobacco with the Jesuits and the Gunpowder Plot:

For a Tobacconist (I dare aver)
Is first of all a rank Idolater
As any of the Ignatian Hierarchy.
. . . .
Then smoke of Powder-Treason, Pistol Knives,
To blow up Kingdoms, and blow out Kings Lives.31

James himself, in the Counter-blaste, associates tobacco with the introduction, not only of bodily corruption through venereal disease, but also with the importation of barbarity into a state ordered and disciplined by Christianity. Though he attests to the medicinal powers of tobacco, he does so with the qualification that its function among materia medica would be unnecessary had not the explorers and colonists established an unbalanced trade with the Indians, exchanging the sin of lust for its antidote:

For Tobacco being a common herbe, which (though under diverse names) growes almost everywhere, was first found out by some of the barbarous Indians to be a Preservative of Antidot against the Pockes, a filthy disease, whereunto the barbarous people are (as all men know) very much subject, what through the uncleanly and adust constitution of their bodies, and what through the intemperate heate of their Climate: so that as from them was first brought into Christendome, that most detestable disease, so from them likewise was first brought this use of Tobacco, as a sinking and unsavorie Antidot, for so corrupted and execrable a Maladie, the stinking Suffumigation whereof they yet use against that disease, making so one canker or venime to eate out another.32

Other polemicists make the point explicitly. In Joshua Sylvester's anti-tobacco verses, for example, though he is rather more charitable toward the American natives, the perversion of the balance of trade is made explicit:

And that on both sides, both for Christians,
It had been better, and for Indians,
That only good men to their coast had come,
Or that the Evil had still staid at home.
. . . .
They carried Sloth, and brought home scurvey skin;
They carried Lust, and brought home Pox within;
They carried Bacchus, and Tobacco brought:
Alas, poor Indians! That, but English none,
Could put them down in their own Trade alone!
That none but English (more alas! more strange!)
Could justify their pitiful exchange.33

In the Counter-blaste we find the association of sin--primarily the sins of lust and vanity--and tobacco:

First are you not guilty of sinnefull and shamefull lust? (For lust may bee as well in any of the senses as in feeling) that although you bee troubled with no disease, but in perfect health, yet can you neither be merry at an Ordinarie, nor lascivious in the Stewes, if you lacke Tobacco to provoke your appetite to any of those sorts of recreation, lusting after it as the children of Israel did in the wildernesse after Quailes?34

And again:

Have you not reason then to bee ashamed, and to forbeare this filthie noveltie, so basely grounded, so foolishly received and so grossely mistaken in the right use thereof? In your abuse thereof sinning against God, harming yourselves both in persons and goods, and taking also thereby the markes and notes of vanitie upon you. . . .35

Even when humorously--almost affectionately--rendered, domestic illustrations of tobacco use almost always point up its ill effects. In Middleton and Rowley's A Fair Quarrel, a roaring exchange in the shop of the tobacco-seller Vapor culminates in a proposed epitaph for one of his customers:

Here coldly now within is laid to rot
A man that yesterday was piping hot.
Some say he died by pudding, some by prick,
Others by roll and ball, some leaf; all stick
Fast in censure, yet think it strange and rare,
He liv'd by smoke, yet died for want of air!
But then the surgeon said when he beheld him,
"It was the burning of his pipe that kill'd him."36

A sheet printed in 1641, with an illustration of two fops smoking over a tobacco keg, makes an ironic reference to tobacco's supposed appetite-suppressant qualities:

But hees an temperate man indeed

That with a leafe can dine--
Hee needes no napkin for his hande
His fingers for to wipe
Hee hath his kitchen in a box
His Roast meate in a pipe.37

The Counter-blaste rises above the usual moralizing of most tracts, even when, in tone, it matches their astonished indignation: at crucial points in his argument, James returns to the disruptions in the social orderliness epitomized, in one instance, by convivial intercourse:

And as for the vanities committed in the filthie custome, is it not both great vanitie and uncleaneness, that at the table, a place of respect, of cleanlinesse, of modestie, men should not be ashamed, to sit tossing of Tobacco pipes, and puffing of the smoke of Tobacco one to another, making the filthie smoke and stinke thereof, to exhale athwart the dishes, and infect the aire, when very often, men that abhorre it are at their repast?38

Nicotine is, of course, a very strong drug, and it's no wonder that tracts praising its medical virtues appeared alongside the denunciations. Apperson quotes a pamphlet published by Dr. William Barclay of Edinburgh published in 1614: "If Tabacco were used physically and with discretion there were no medicament in the worlde comparable to it."39 Another tract, "A Brief and Accurate Treatise concerning The taking of the Fume of Tobacco, Which very many, in these dayes doe too licenciously use," by a Tobias Venner, was published in London in 1637. After attacking the "licentious Tobacconists who spend and consume, not only their time, but also their health, wealth, and witts in taking of this loathsome and unsavorie fume," he goes on to prescribe "10 precepts in the use of Tobacco," including "that you drink not between the taking of the fumes, as our idle and smoakie Tobacconists are wont," and "that you go not abroad into the aire presently upon the taking of the fume, but rather refrain therefrom the space of halfe an houre, or more, especially if the season be cold, or moist."40

Since the social use of tobacco was already beyond the purview of the state (except as a source of revenue to the crown), these pro-tobacco tracts--all of them focusing, significantly, on the medicinal use of the plant--seek to enforce a personal regulation of its use. The improper application of a medicine (one that is inextricably linked, as we've seen, with New World diseases) is a theme that James takes up in the Counter-blaste: "Medicine hath that vertue that it never leaveth a man in that state wherein it findeth him; it makes a sicke man whole, but a whole man sicke."41 As physician to the "Body-politic," the king finds himself in the position of trying to proscribe a usage that was only briefly, if at all, limited to the pharmacopeia of the time.

For rememdie whereof, it is the Kings (as the proper Phisician of his Politice-body) to purge it [i.e., the state] of all those diseases, by Medicines meete for the same: as by a certaine milde, and yet just form of government, to maintaine the Publicke quietnesse, and prevent all occasions of Commotions by the example of his owne Person and Court, to make us all ashamed of our sluggish delicacie, and to stirre us up to the practice againe of all honest exercises, and Martiall shadowes of Warre.42

But the administration of the commonwealth is accomplished by means other than example, and the prerogatives of government arise, not from the king's relationship to his subjects, but through the mystery of divine election and empowerment. James's capacity to "Martiall shadowes of Warre" was something very different from his right to declare war proper, or to negotiate peace: as an exemplar, his effectiveness was balanced by countervailing tendencies that were driving England inexorably along a current of mercantilism and broad-scale cultural change. Already by 1610, a few years after the Counter-blaste was published, the English were more concerned with the adulteration of tobacco than with His Majesties' widely-bruited dislike of the substance. In Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, the housekeeper Face gives a good report of Able Drugger's wares:

This is my friend ABEL, an honest fellow,
He lets me haue good tobacco, and he do's not
Sophisticate it, with sack-lees, or oyle,
Nor washes it in muscadell, and graines,
Nor buries it, in grauell, vnder ground,
Wrap'd vp in greasie leather, or piss'd clouts:
But keeps it in fine lilly-pots, that open'd
Smell like conserue of roses, or french beans.43

In the actual governance of the state, as opposed to the less pliant, and apparently less effective role as an example to his subjects, James fell back on his monarchical powers. He was not so anti-tobacco as to neglect its value as a source of revenue for the crown. In 1613, finding himself in financial straits, he considered a project "for increase of the Kings revenue by his resuming into his own hands the grant of sole importation of tobacco, and regranting it to an agent, who will yield him half the profits, estimated at 15,000 pounds, with reason why he may resume the grant."44 In 1615, as George Louis Beer writes, he took action on the measure and "granted to two individuals the sole privilege of importing tobacco and of naming persons entitled to sell it. Later, in 1620, the exclusive right to import tobacco was bestowed upon a body of men at whose head was Sir Thomas Roe, the distinguished explorer and diplomatist. In return the Crown received the very high rental of £16,000."45

There was revenue, too, in the paraphernalia of tobacco use: in 1619, James granted an exclusive charter to the pipemakers of Westminster, though not without interjecting therein something of his distaste--in muted terms--for the trade:

. . . (this Trade being a new Trade, never yet ordered by any Law or Policie, and which concerneth not any Commoditie of necessitie for our Common weale, but a superfluous pleasure, necessarie to be regulated by Our Royall power Authoritie) we have therefore thought fit by Letters Patents under our Great Seale, to Incorporate a certain number of choice and selected persons . . . to practice that Art."46

In the same year, he took steps to restrain the cultivation of tobacco on domestic soil, once more prefacing the proclamation with a preamble expressing his repugnance (in terms rather less vitriolic than what we find in the Counter-blaste):

It is not unknowen what dislike Wee have ever had of the use of Tobacco, as tending to a general corruption, both of mens bodies and manners: Nevertheles it is of the two, more tolerable, that the saime should bee imported amongst many other vanities and superfluities which come from beyond the Seas, then permitted to be planted here withen this Realme, thereby to abuse and misemploy the soyle of this fruitfull Kingdome. . . . We are informed, That whereas the use of foreine Tobacco was chiefly received in Cities and great Townes, where riot and excesse take place, it is now by the Inland plantation become promiscuous, and begun to be taken in every meane Village, even amongst the basest people.47

No doubt James was anxious to protect the customs duties which could be exacted on ships' lading with more ease than from the broadscale regulation of a domestic tobacco industry. But there is also a generic difference in the rhetorical means and ends of these state documents on the one hand, and the Counter-blaste on the other. One is struck first by the temperance of these documents' denunciation of tobacco. It has become, in the language of these orders, a "superfluity" or "superfluous pleasure," rather than the eruption of a wholly foreign substance that threatens to displace English virtues with the diseased culture of New World barbarism: tobacco has become an additive corruption, a vanity unconquerable by "Marshaling the shadowes of Warre," but susceptible to the routinized expression of princely prerogatives through statist directives. Charters and proscriptions directed at the regulation of the tobacco trade are less ostensibly political than the Counter-blaste. The latter derives its force by a quasi-martial exhortation, which, as it turns out, is not so effective as the patently forceful, though more limited, exercise of divinely-ordained authority. The restraint of the patent to Winchester's pipe-makers and of the proclamation against the planting of tobacco in England and Wales mark off the frontiers of James's power as king--a power whose derivation from the "Mystery of state" we are forewarned against "looking in to." They lack the full-throated rhetoric of the Counter-blaste precisely because they arise, not from a ruler's personal solicitude for the commonweal, but from his relationship with with God and his subjects. Subjected thus, James could not marshal the shadow of war as he might in rational argument; rather, he finds himself hemmed in by the exigencies of budgets, Parliament, and a well-established tobacco trade, and must steward--even parsimoniously steward--his divine right to rule on matters of state. So it is that the Counter-blaste backs off from princely might, and the proclamations from private outrage. The rhetoric of each--or the difference between the two types of documents--is an index of the mercantilist tendencies that continued to sweep England away from the model of absolutist monarchies that ruled on the continent.

It might well be argued that tobacco use was already out of hand, so far as James was concerned, and that regulation was a attempt to make a virtue of necessity. But the tide was already in by 1604, when the Counter-blaste appeared: we've seen that tobacco was a staple expression of English culture, well entrenched in its literature and economic life. James is particularly aware of the way in which novelties from America were alluring to a society whose hopes for more substantial issue from its westward expansion were frustrated. Virginia, devoid of gold, nonetheless provided the trappings of a New World encounter to a culture eager for the "superfluities" that marked its status as a colonizing empire:

Doe we not dayly see, that a man can no sooner bring from beyond the Seas any new forme of apparell, but that hee cannot bee thought a man of spirit, that would not presently imitate the same?49

This investiture of the Old World with the New was for James a momentary disruption which, in his best hopes, would be supplanted in time by a more routinized trade between England and its western holdings. Colonization would become a nursery of English virtues, rather than a source of corruption. In restraining the cultivation of tobacco in England and Wales, James conceded to a provisional acceptance of the colonies' need for exportable commodities, while looking forward to the day when an orderly balance of trade, more suited to the English character as he envisioned it, would be established:

We are given to understand from diverse persons of skill and experience, That the English Tobacco, howsoever some doe presume to imagine by industrie and experience to rectifie it, and make it good (wherein it is easie for opinion to doe mischiefe) yet is certeinly in itselfe more crude, poysonous and dangerous for the bodies and healths of Our Subjects, then that that comes from hotter Climates; so that the medicinall use of Tobacco (which is that that is only good in it, and to be approved) is in this kind also corrupted and infected. . . .

. . . whereas Our Colonies and Plantations in Virginia and the Sommer Ilands, (being proper and naturall Climates for that plant, and the true temper thereof) receive much comfort by the Importation therof into this Kingdome, (which is to be respected at least in the Interim, until Our Colonies may grow to yeeld better and more solid commodities) Now the said Trading from thence is and will be by the Plantation within this Realme, choaked and overthrowen.50

The nurturing of the colonial enterprise, even to the extent of encouraging a home market for Virginian tobacco, exemplifies James's princely deferral to the common good, and his strategic desertion of personal inclinations (recall that James, in the Counter-blaste, had already argued against the medicinal properties of tobacco: "a stinking and unsavorie Antidot"). At any rate, by 1619, date of the proclamation, tobacco was only incidentally taken for its medicinal properties; its "recreational" use was by then a well entrenched aspect of English life, so that its medical value was a thin reed on which to hang an argument for the protection of the Virginian plantations. It does, however, show how James was willing to veer away from the language of political exhortation found in the Counter-blaste when fulfilling his regal responsibilities to his domestic subjects and the western holdings. When the two worked at cross-purposes, as sometimes they did, he held fast to the "mystery of State," the unsearchable ordination that made the crown an instrument of mediation between an inviolate divine right and governance.

As the first Stuart, James was particularly attentive to the task of shoring up his monarchical rights, and protecting them from the predations of Parliament. The Counter-blaste lacks a magisterial forcefulness of law, and thus has little relevance to the entrenchment of Stuart power. As a document of political exhortation it seems flat-footed and shrill. What makes it particularly interesting is its position at the obverse of James's governance of the realm. It is a wholly exoteric text, unmarked by the combination of rhetorical restraint and the presumption of divine power, the "mystery of State," that characterizes royal attempts to control the forces--cultural and economic--which converged on the use of tobacco during the first third of the 17th century. The Counter-blaste's goal--to "Martiall shadowes of Warre" against tobacco--was ineffectual: it takes pride of place in the minor literature of moralizing anti-tobacco tracts only by dint of authorship. But as an explicitly political text from the hand of a king, it highlights the peculiar bifurcation of James's rights and powers on the one hand, and his predilections on the other.


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"The Sucklington Faction: or (Sucklings) Roaring Boys." n.p., 1641.

1. Given the prevalence of gossip in the Jacobean court, James was probably known as the writer well before he owned to the authorship of the Counter-blaste twelve years after its appearance.

2. James VI and I, A Counter-blaste to Tobacco (London, 1604; rpt. Emmaus, Penn.: Rodale Books, 1954), p. 9.

3. A Counter-blaste to Tobacco, pp. 8-9.

4. Jonathan Goldberg, James I and the Politics of Literature: Jonson, Shakespeare, Donne, and Their Contemporaries (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), p. 56.

5. For a review of tobacco's early European history, see C. M. MacInnes, The Early English Tobacco Trade (London: Keegan Paul, 1926), pp. 11-35; and G. L. Apperson, The Social History of Smoking (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1916), pp. 11-23.

6. Robert S. Raitt, ed., A Royal Rhetorician (New York: Brentanos, 1900), p. 55, n. A.

7. A Counter-blaste to Tobacco, p. 14.

8. Jeffrey Knapp, "Elizabethan Tobacco," Representations 21 (1988), p. 32.

9. MacInnes, p. 2. See, however, G. L. Apperson, who finds that "whoever actually smoked the first pipe, it was Raleigh who brought the practice into common use" (p. 15).

10. Apperson, p. 30. The admission of tobacco's medicinal virtues--"friendly foe to rheum"--exemplifies a generally-held belief that we'll revisit: it was an attitude that James addressed at some length in the Counter-blaste.

11. Melvin Herndon, Tobacco in Colonial Virginia: "The Sovereign Remedy" (Williamsburg, Va.: Virginia 350th Anniversary Celebration Corp., 1957), p. 2.

12. Herndon, p. 3.

13. Joyce Lorimer, "The English Contraband Tobacco Trade in Trinidad and Guiana, 1590-1617," in The Westward Enterprise: English Activities in Ireland, the Atlantic, and America, 1480-1650, ed. K. R. Andrews, N. P. Canny, and P. E. H. Hair (Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 1979), p. 127.

14. Apperson, pp. 32-33.

15. MacInnes, pp.33-34. Unless otherwise noted, subsequent figures on the early importation and valuation of tobacco in this paragraph are from MacInnes, pp. 32-36.

16. George Louis Beer, The Origins of the British Colonial System, 1578-1660 (New York: MacMillan, 1908), p. 79, n. 3.

17. Knapp, p. 36.

18. Beer, p. 79, n. 3.

19. Beer, p. 79.

20. Apperson, p. 35.

21. Quoted in Apperson, p. 33.

22. Beer, p. 78.

23. Beer, p. 78, n. 2.

24. Reproduced in Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker, The Roaring Girl, ed. Paul A. Mulholland (London: Manchester University Press, 1987), p. 71.

25. Reproduced in A Counter-blaste to Tobacco, p. 23.

26. Apperson, pp. 205-06.

27. A Counter-blaste to Tobacco, p. 36.

28. Beer, p. 80.

29. Ronald Huebert, "Tobacco and Boys and Marlowe," Sewanee Review, 92, No. 2 (1984), p. 206.

30. Knapp, p. 41.

31. Joshua Sylvester, "Tobacco Battered, and the Pipes Shattered about their Ears, that id'ly Idolize so Base and Barbarous a Weed; or, At Least-wise Over-love so Loathsome Vanity" (London: John Hancock, 1672), p. 52.

32. A Counter-blaste to Tobacco, p. 12.

33. Sylvester, pp. 50-52.

34. A Counter-blaste to Tobacco, p. 29.

35. A Counter-blaste to Tobacco, p. 36.

36. Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, A Fair Quarrel, ed. George R. Price (Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1976), p. 77.

37. "The Sucklington Faction: or (Sucklings) Roaring Boys" (n.p., 1641), recto.

38. A Counter-blaste to Tobacco, p. 32.

39. Apperson, p. 53.

40. Apperson, pp. 51-52.

41. A Counter-blaste to Tobacco, p. 27.

42. A Counter-blaste to Tobacco, p. 8.

43. Ben Jonson, The Alchemist, in The Works of Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Herford and Percy Simpson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1937), pp. 309-10.

44. MacInnes, p. 52.

45. Beer, pp. 117-18.

46. James VI and I, "An Abstract of His Majesties Late Charter, Granted to the Tobacco-Pipe Makers of Westminster," (London: J. Beale, 1619), recto.

47. James VI and I, "A Proclamation to Restraine the Planting of Tobacco in England and Wales" (London: Robert Barker and John Bill, 1619), recto.

49. A Counter-blaste to Tobacco, p. 21.

50. "A Proclamation to Restraine the Planting of Tobacco in England and Wales," verso.