Addressat the actors’ fund fair, Philadelphia, in 1895
Ladies and gentlemen,—The—er this—er—welcome occasion gives me an —er—opportunity to make an—er—explanation that I have long desired to deliver myself of. I rise to the highest honors before a Philadelphia audience. In the course of my checkered career I have, on divers occasions, been charged—er—maliciously with a more or less serious offence. It is in reply to one of the more—er—important of these that I wish to speak. More than once I have been accused of writing obituary poetry in the Philadelphia Ledger.
I wish right here to deny that dreadful assertion. I will admit that once, when a compositor in the Ledger establishment, I did set up some of that poetry, but for a worse offence than that no indictment can be found against me. I did not write that poetry—at least, not all of it.
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.