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Sherlock Holmes pipe

Author: SherlockExtra - Translator: Revati

Grandfather stuffed some tobacco into his pipe, then sit to the rocking chair or armchair and began to smoke with delighted smile on his face. All family members felt that on these occasions the old man became calmer and more sympathetic. Children and grandchildren tried to talk about their requests during this ritual. Nowadays this habit is less popular, but whoever sees a pipe-smoking silhouette refers it to Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes silhouette with pipe

People of bygone times did not know about the harmful effects of smoking. On the contrary, they thought it is healthy, because the smoke reduces the propagation of pneumatic infections. (Perhaps this false opinion developed because in some cases – in foods like smoked ham, for example – smoking disinfects and conserves.) Smoking was a habit and a way of protecting health. Many famous people became addicted to smoking, because they experienced its mind refreshing effect.

Dr. Joseph Bell, after whom the legendary sleuth was modelled, once mesmerized his audience at the university with a deduction focused on a pipe. He called in a patient who waited outside and whom he haven't seen before. The woman entered but said not a single word and the doctor asked her where did she leave her cutty pipe. She took it out from her purse. And what were the clues that put Bell on the right track? They were trifles, of course. Nothing but a small ulcer on the woman's lower lip and a glossy scar on her cheek. These told the professor that she smokes a short-stem pipe that lies close to her cheek. Elementary, isn't it?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Hemingway, Milne, J. R. R. Tolkien and Mark Twain were all smokers. Edwin Hubble and Albert Einstein too – the latter even wrote a poem about smoking.

Albert Einstein with pipe

The genius Albert Einstein with pipe

Holmes maybe indulged on smoking during his university years, becuse of its mind refreshing effect.

We know from his kind chronicler, dr. Watson, that when he was nervous, Holmes paced up and down and smoked. The cigarettes of the great detective originated from a tobacco shop in London. On special occasions Sherlock smoke cigars, and sometimes he snuffed (He got his snuff-box from a honourable client).

Certainly Watson liked to smoke (usually he smoked Arcadia mixture, which has fluffy white ash according to Holmes, or a brand named Ship’s), and sometimes he joined Holmes for a cigar, but we cannot say he was a heavy smoker. However his friend was a real addict, who used his knowledge of ashes, cigarette and cigar ends while solving mysteries. In The Sign of Four he tells the doctor:

"Yes, I have been guilty of several monographs. They are all upon technical subjects. Here, for example, is one 'Upon the Distinction between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos.' In it I enumerate a hundred and forty forms of cigar, cigarette, and pipe tobacco, with coloured plates illustrating the difference in the ash. It is a point which is continually turning up in criminal trials, and which is sometimes of supreme importance as a clue. If you can say definitely, for example, that some murder had been done by a man who was smoking an Indian lunkah, it obviously narrows your field of search. To the trained eye there is as much difference between the black ash of a Trichinopoly and the white fluff of bird's-eye as there is between a cabbage and a potato."

Conan Doyle’s detective was not an opium addict

Sherlock Holmes Opium Pipe

Some movie adaptations show the belief that Holmes often smoke opium. Actually the British sleuth only turned to it because it was necessary for his investigation to visit an opium den. Watson mentions in The Adventure of the Man with the Twisted Lip that an opium pipe dangled down between his knees, but we do not know whether he had to use it to fit in (as Jeremy Brett mentions it in the Granada series) or his „performance” was enough. Perhaps we can assume that he did not use the pipe, because he was amused after coming out of the den:

„ I suppose, Watson, said he, that you imagine that I have added opium-smoking to cocaine injections and all the other little weaknesses on which you have favoured me with your medical views. ” Then he tells that he was at the den to find an enemy.

The famous calabash pipe

Sherlock Holmes calabash pipe

Roger Moore (Sherlock Holmes in New York) with calabash pipe

Another specific pipe linked to Sherlock in movies is the calabash. Watson mentions in his writings that his friend had pipes made from clay, briar and cherry. Watson also observed that Holmes preferred the clay pipe in his disputatious mood. So the question turns up: how did a pipe, which Doyle never mentioned in his works become the trademark of Holmes?

William Gilette as Sherlock Holmes with pipe

American actor William Gillette came up with the idea that the great detective should have a pipe and a hat onstage. The calabash was perfect in respect of the scene and the smoke too, in addition the actor could rest it if it was necessary. It is said Gillette rest the pipe on his chest.

These benefits of the calabash pipe showed up on the screen as well. You could see it in the hands of many actors (Peter Cushing, Roger Moore, John Barrymore, Michael Caine). The success of this type of pipe was aided by the supposition that the bigger is the firebox (where the tobacco is) of a pipe, the more reflective and clever is its user.

When the Granada series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was shot, the use of the calabash pipe was already a tradition. Filmmakers did not want to break the habit, but at the same time they wanted to be faithful to the ideas of Doyle. So they came to a special and nice solution: Sherlock (Jeremy Brett) never smokes this pipe at Baker Street, but we can see it in the background. He only uses it outdoors, namely in Switzerland, in The Final Problem, when his thoughts evolve around his arch-enemy, Professor James Moriarty.

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes with pipe

The famous calabash appears in Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) too. Holmes and Watson investigate some strange deaths and they visit an antiques shop to gain information on an ancient Egyptian artifact. But they have to buy something to get some data, so Sherlock tells Watson to choose, and he picks this kind of pipe.

Young Sherlock Holmes pipe

We learn from Watson’s memories that Holmes kept his cigars in a scuttle besides the fireplace. At that time the scuttle looked like a wide, open basket with a handle. Since he kept it near the fireplace, it was not very safe, but it looks like the most eccentric lodger of Baker Street attended it right. Holmes kept his tobacco in a Persian slipper. (These were traditionally made of silk, satin or brocade, and their cap frizzled up.)

Sherlock Holmes Persian Slipper with tobacco

The Persian Slipper with tobacco - London, Sherlock Holmes Museum

„ But with me there is a limit, and when I find a man who keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe-end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantlepiece, then I begin to give myself virtuous airs. ” - writes dr. Watson. But the good doctor would have not been so shocked if he knew that the slipper was originally made for tobacco.

"The three-pipe problem"

Original artists on deviantART:
Riley Stark (Jeremy Brett), foxestacado (Robert Downey), volkradugi (Vasily Livanov)

The three-pipe problem

"The three pipe problem" with Sherlock Holmes actors

The British genius willingly uses his pipe while contemplating. The term „three-pipe problem” can be linked to him. It means that he wants to contemplate for the period of smoking three pipes. The scene is in The Adventure of the Red Headed League – here are the words of Watson:

„ To smoke’ he answered. ’It is quite a three-pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes.’He curled himself u pin his chair, with his thin knees drawn up to his hawk-like nose, and there he sat with his eyes closed and his black clay pipe thrusting out like the bill of some strange bird. I had come to the conclusion that he had dropped asleep, and indeed was nodding myself, when he suddenly sprang out of his chair with the gesture of a man who had made up his mind, and put his pipe down upon the mantelpiece. ”

Of course it became a joke soon. In one caricature Watson says: Holmes, I think you overdo this three-pipe problem – and Holmes has three smoking pipes in his mouth.

Unfortunately the modern adaptations (BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’s Elementary) broke the pipe smoking habit, because the creators could not find a pipe cool enough for the detective. This way the modern Sherlock silhouettes became pipeless. But how much does Sherlock Holmes worth without his pipe?

Sherlockian Holmesian

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Please keep in mind that smoking is harmful.

" The pipes of Sherlock Holmes "

Author: SherlockExtra
Translator: Revati

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Jeremy Brett's churchwarden pipe

Jeremy Brett and the pipe:

Jeremy Brett's churchwarden pipe

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