Monday, June 22, 2009

The Confessions of Saint Allen, No. 2

I smoke Cigars. I suppose I should begin by explaining how I fell into this delightful habit. It all started with C. S. Lewis. Actually, it was more the Inklings [Excuse me while I google Lewis, Inklings, smoking]. OK, I'm back.
Here are the basics (from

The Inklings were literary enthusiasts who praised the value of narrative in fiction, and encouraged the writing of fantasy. Although Christian values were notably reflected in several members' work, there were also atheists among the members of the discussion group.

"Properly speaking," wrote Warren Lewis, "the Inklings was neither a club nor a literary society, though it partook of the nature of both. There were no rules, officers, agendas, or formal elections."

As was typical for university literary groups in their time and place, the Inklings were all male. (Dorothy L. Sayers, sometimes claimed as an Inkling, was a friend of Lewis and Williams, but never attended Inklings meetings.)

A number of Inklings participants were smokers. And drinkers. They smoked pipes and/or cigars. A few years back I began to think about--and envy--the Inklings and their camaraderie. I could picture them gathering, Friday afternoons, at the London pub they frequented, the Eagle and Child (Which they renamed the Bird and Baby). By all accounts they enjoyed brandy along with their cigars, cigarettes and pipes. We live in a much different day and age with a much different set of values.

I had quit cigarettes more than a year before I began smoking cigars. By this time, I had no residual cravings for nicotine whatsoever. What drew me to cigars was the mental image of the Inklings and the camaraderie they shared. I began to wonder if there were, anywhere in all of San Diego, a place where men got together for interesting conversation. I could find none. Still, the picture in my mind remained. It was a picture of men of like mind sharing themselves and their thoughts together in a way which was pleasing to them and fulfilled the need all men have for camaraderie.

As fate would have it, that month National Review (a political fortnightly) had a full-page ad from Thompson Cigars for a sampler pack of six cigars--which came with a free humidor/carrying case. I went for it and ordered the cigars. I smoked them one by one and found one brand I really liked--C.A.O. (Still my favorite: the Brasilia Samba. Ummm...) I was so inspired, I began, in January of 2005, the Chesterton Cigar Club--named after none other than the great Victorian journalist (and cigar smoker), G.K. Chesterton (Seems everyone in that period dropped their first to names to initials. Just call me D.A. Randall)

There you have it--confession No.2. It is 7:00p.m. straight up. I am now going to go select from my humidor a big beautiful cigar and celebrate a day well spent relaxing, shopping, putzing and blogging by lighting one up and contemplating my next confession.

* The Inklings was an informal literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford, England, for nearly two decades between the early 1930s and late 1949.[1] Its most regular members (many of them academics at the University) included J. R. R. "Tollers" Tolkien, C. S. "Jack" Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Christopher Tolkien (J. R. R. Tolkien's son), Warren "Warnie" Lewis (C. S. Lewis's elder brother), Roger Lancelyn Green, Adam Fox, Hugo Dyson, R. A. "Humphrey" Havard, J. A. W. Bennett, Lord David Cecil, and Nevill Coghill.

The Eagle and Child is a pub in St Giles', Oxford, England which is owned by St. John's College, Oxford.

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