Harper's Weekly 09/09/1882


OUR FORTUNATE BOYS.

The boys of the present day have little idea of the kind-
ness which fortune has shown them. Their facilities for
acquiring useful knowledge are greatly in advance of those
of the boys of the last generation. Twenty years ago a
boy acquired the art of smoking with the greatest diffi-
culty. He had to take his first lesson with a pipe and
strong tobacco, or with a rank and wretched cigar. With-
drawing behind the barn, in order to pursue his task with-
out interruption, he smoked his pipe or his cigar until the
inevitable and deathly sickness that follows the unaccus-
tomed use of tobacco in heroic doses overcame him. How
terrible were the hours passed by the young student prone
on the damp turf, and conscious that no concealment of the
state of his stomach from the paternal eye would be possi-
ble! How well he knew that he was doomed to pass from
the barn to the wood-shed, and that to the disturbance
wrought in his interior by tobacco would be added the
acute disturbance of his exterior by the rod which Solomon
—after he was safely grown up—so warmly approved! Yet
it was only by this hard and thorny path that the boy could
become a smoker. On the threshold of the domain of smoke
waited forever the fiends of nausea and deadly faintness.
The only way to learn to smoke was to grapple boldly with
the pipe and cigar, and to persevere through pain and sick-
ness and the shadow of the apple-tree switch, until success
crowned the indomitable will of the young smoker.


The boy of the present day knows nothing of the suffer-
ings of his predecessor. The path of smoking is made plain
and easy to him by means of the cheap and gentle cigarette.
He takes his first lesson in smoking in the seclusion of his
room, and without dreaming of the necessity of a retired
locality wherein to stretch himself upon the ground. His
first cigarette contains just enough tobacco to slightly affect
his system, but not enough to produce nausea. If his sec-
ond cigarette begins to fill him with abdominal distrust, he
throws it away in time to save himself. By practicing for
a few days with one cigarette, he presently becomes able to
smoke two without unpleasant consequences. Soon he is
able to smoke three or four with impunity, and is then ready
to take up the higher branches of pipe and cigar smoking,
confident that he can master them in a short time, and
without any internal distress.


For the modern boy there is no danger that he will be
discovered by his father in that limp and hopeless condition
that admits of no plausible reply when the dread words are
uttered, “You've been smoking, and don't let me hear you
deny it.” On the approach of a sudden father or an unex-
pected mother, he can always drop his cigarette, and no
pale cheeks or clammy forehead will betray him. He never
knows the anguish of that awful loss of confidence in his
stomach that formerly made the juvenile smoker tempora-
rily wish that he had never been born. Nothing is simpler
—thanks to the introduction of cigarettes—than for any
boy of ordinary abilities to become an accomplished smoker,
and the success of the new system is illustrated by the fact
that our boys, with hardly an exception, learn to smoke at
an age at which their fathers fancied themselves far too
young to undertake so difficult and trying a study.


Proud as we may justly be of the facilities now at the
command of the youthful smoker, it must nevertheless be
conceded that there are certain branches of knowledge
which our boys must still acquire with pain and difficulty.
They are compelled to learn to drink whiskey in precisely
the crude way in which the art has been learned from time
immemorial. Whiskey is always disagreeable when tasted
for the first time, and the boy who is determined to learn to
drink must have his throat scorched and his breath taken
away many times before his taste becomes so educated
that he can truthfully say that he likes whiskey. He has
to pass, in fact, through an experience at least as disagree-
able as that of the young smoker in the days when cigar-
ettes were unknown. This is by no means creditable to our
civilization. We ought long ago to have made it as easy
for a boy to learn to drink as it is to learn to smoke. What
is needed is some means of supplying boys with whiskey in
small quantities, and with its fiery and objectionable taste
partially concealed. We should have whiskeyrettes as well
as cigarettes. With their aid a boy could easily accustom
himself to whiskey, and make fair progress toward becom-
ing an able and successful drunkard without once experi-
encing the unpleasant sensations which sometimes so thor-
oughly disgust the youthful drinker as to induce him to
entirely abandon all hope of learning to drink.


Almost as great facilities are offered to the youthful
gambler as to the youthful smoker. There are numberless
academies—if they may be so called—in this city where
the attempt is made to combine the studies of gambling
and drinking by means of the system known as “pin pool
for drinks.” The low rates of tuition asked by those in
charge of these juvenile academies, and the entire freedom
in the use of profanity which is accorded to the pupils,
make them peculiarly attractive. While they undoubtedly
furnish admirable practical instruction in gambling, and
exercise a strong influence in stimulating youth to study
the art of drinking, they have no new and satisfactory sys-
tem of smoothing the student's pathway to drunkenness.
Our boys can learn to smoke and to gamble with an ease
which leaves nothing to be desired, but it is time that
something was done to furnish them with facilities which
would make the task of learning to like whiskey at least as
simple and easy.



Website design © 2000-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com