What is snuff? For those who don’t know, it is powdered tobacco and was the forerunner to smoking cigarettes. There are still snuff takers but it has fallen out in popularity over the years. Just as cigarettes can become an addiction, so could sniffing up snuff. In fact, in past years, it was classified in the same drug group as opium. The main difference was that opium was more expensive and was taken by the upper classes and those with money, whilst snuff was cheaper and appealed to those less well off.
When I said the upper classes, I meant that opium was allegedly taken by many including members of the then Royal Family. That was because it was not looked on as anything bad and was not illegal to use it. Snuff was also very popular and the person we are going to talk about, one Margaret Thomson, was perhaps snuff’s greatest enthusiast. She loved the stuff and took it in large quantities. She lived in Essex Street just off the Strand; the street is still there.
But Margaret not only loved to take snuff, she wanted to take it with her when she died. And so, she stipulated in her will that no one mentioned would get a penny if they did not carry out her instructions after she snuffed it. These included her coffin had to be filled with snuff, the pallbearers were all well-known snuff takers and six girls walked behind the hearse scattering snuff as they went. Even the priest officiating, had to partake in sniffing snuff throughout the whole service and for everyone else, they could go to her door that day and receive free snuff.